Time and Quiet

Sometimes I need quiet to free my brain of daily distractions to put pen to paper or fingers to my keyboard. There’s certainly a lot to distract us as we search for good news amongst the mostly bad news about COVID-19 that is on TV, social media, and in newspapers. The reader will see a few random “quiet time” photos from my collection in this blog to break up the text.

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In retirement, I work two days a week and live alone. Before the recommendation to shelter at home, I’d spend my workday breaks running errands and/or meeting friends for lunch. On other days, I attended volunteer organization meetings, planned dinner parties, and went out to local bars and restaurants to hear live music and eat out.  Nearly everything is now canceled or closed. The State Department just announced that US citizens should not travel abroad during this pandemic and everyone abroad should come home. I canceled a trip to Ireland planned for the end of this month.

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This blog entry is a celebration of the enforced quiet many of us are experiencing due to our time at home. There’s a real benefit to social distancing. I wrote copious journal entries in my adolescence. After I started college, studying took all my time and I let it go. During graduate school, I read The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.  I credit that book to a personal awakening and renewed interest in writing. A new job, then children, again put the idea on the back burner. A painful divorce eleven years ago freed me to consider writing again.

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I read an article recently that likened writing to a form of worship. I’m more inclined to think of it as a daily meditation or therapy. Writing with a writing group helped me recover from divorce. I established a daily writing routine that I continue to maintain.

The writing group’s monthly meetings keep us all working to bring new work to a shared critique. I’ve made longlasting friends in the process. As a decidedly nice side-benefit of my writing time, I’ve published poems in journals, magazines, and anthologies. I’ve published two chapbooks and a full-length poetry collection has been accepted for publication.

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My take-away from enforced solitude, listen to the quiet and allow your inner voice to guide you forward.

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.

City Travel

Welcome, new visitors to my blog. I typically write about country life, and as the readers who follow my posts are aware, I live on a ranch in a rural area, remote from most urban settings. 

Last weekend I ventured into Minneapolis with a friend.  We saw the musical, Guys and Dolls, at the Guthrie Theatre, spent a day at the Minneapolis Art Institute’s special exhibit of Native Women’s Art, and attended the air show, Wings of the North, among other urban adventures.

It’s tough to get used to so much traffic, Minneapolis’ complex interstate system, and limited or expensive parking when my daily drive is usually over gravel roads and parking is never an issue. The only obstacles in my area are slow-moving tractors conveying large equipment from one place to another.

Guthrie Theatre: https://www.guthrietheater.org/

Guthrie Theatre Sign under a full moon above & stage set for Guys and Dolls below

A windowless hotel room, conspired with my touch of vertigo, to disrupt my sense of direction in the city.  Thanks to GPS, we got to our destinations, even though I believed west was east the entire time.  My internal direction-finder began to function again, as we drove toward home, in bright sunshine.

Minneapolis Art Institute: Hearts of our People Native Women Artists exhibit https://new.artsmia.org/

Blanket Totem Pole above and Egyptian Horse below

  Wings of the North: https://www.wotn.org/airexpo/  

 Biplane pictured first. One of the two B-52’s still flying, from WWII, flew over the airshow, pictured second.

The special events were wonderful and I’m glad I was there, but my favorite stops were to the Next Chapter Booksellers https://www.nextchapterbooksellers.com/ and Dunn Bros coffee shop http://www.dunnbrosgrand.com/.  I prefer to spend my book dollars in an indie bookstore, rather than online at a commercial giant, like Amazon.  There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee and a treat, like this delicious tiramisu, after book shopping.

Both establishments are located across the street from Macalester College https://www.macalester.edu/. The campus is tree-covered, and no doubt storied, for the undergraduates of this liberal arts college.  I love walking around college and university campuses when visiting college towns or neighborhoods.  It’s fun to imaging having attended there.  It’s probably not a surprise that I feel “warm and fuzzy” about higher education.  After all, I graduated from two universities and worked for a college in a third town, for nearly forty years.

We stopped at the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Shop in La Mars for a final treat of chocolate cones before heading home.  Terrific ice cream and fun little blue bunnies are all over the shop. https://www.bluebunny.com/  

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.

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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