and the roses climb

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the roses climb and climb higher, so high i need a footstool to prune and deadhead as petals rain down on my feet below, so high i will soon need to pull the ladder out of the garage in order to perform the necessary maintenance, so high i wonder if i should build an arch and send them across the sidewalk and back down the other side, so high my neighbour can enjoy them from the kitchen window of her raised bungalow, so high they might reach the sky.

they were an experiment as most everything in my garden is and was and i wanted something different than the hearty rose bushes that grow large and fragrant dotted around my yard, a climber and i wondered, would a climber be strong enough to endure the long cold freeze melt of our winters, would a climber actually climb high enough to flank an arched entry in my front yard, would a climber actually scale the walls of my bungalow in the front and create a softening to the angles of that come from having a roof with all those peaks triangulated upwards.  i had no idea when i planted the puny little rose plant 3 summers ago that it would not only climb so high but that the profusion of bright red pink roses would waft such beautiful scent into my bedroom window and that the petals would create a carpet of colour to greet visitors to my back yard.  I had no idea that i would fall so deeply in love with the climbing roses.

in september, the new fence goes in and the eradication of my front lawn begins because lets be honest, i am running out of garden space so the roses will quickly follow and there will be climbers, so many more climbers but she will be my favourite, the first, the one that reminded me that i too grow towards the sun and that time changes everything, always.

gardening is my teacher, my meditation, my release from the stoic dance through the long winter snow.  gardening is more than creating a beautiful sanctuary for which to sit back and enjoy though that is a part of it but only a part. gardening is where i find myself, where i am reminded that life is a cycle, that there is fumbling stunted growth, there is beautiful blooming and shining, there are obstacles and hazards and death and the seeds from the living find new life and sometimes there is rebirth and sometimes life doesn't take, and it shrivels and dies before it has a chance to shine and that is okay, it returns to the earth and becomes part of the fertilization of something new.  there is beauty and there is neglect and a little attention to the neglect and there is beauty again though sometimes too much attention causes loss and heartbreak.

and i know you know if you garden, you know that there is room for control but there is no way to prepare for the fact that those slugs decided to take up residence and hid themselves so well, you never even knew they were there until it was too late or that all those summers of rain caused the blight that removed the long colourful stalks of hollyhock and the gaping hole of that loss still hurts your heart and how there was no way to prepare for the way that cranesbill geranium somehow spread itself to every single part of your garden, rising up in the swaying daisy patch, rising up in the mossy thyme of your pathways, rising up in the middle of the graceful hosta that makes that beautiful cracking sound when you divide her up every couple of years, rising up next to the tomatoes and the brightly smiling marigolds, rising up around the various mints that soothe your summer dry parched throat, rising up in a way that delights every single part of you that dreamed of brightly coloured cottage gardens as you first surveyed the neglected yard of weeds and quack grass.

and the roses climb and climb higher and pierce my skin and embed blooms in the beat thrum drum of my heart. and the summer heat rises up. and i breathe in deeply.

 

home

i have had many homes, some brief and some long and drawn out some that lived only in the spaces of my memory's heart

a snowy gravel road through dense trees, a white sand beach of rocky waves, a lonely tent swallowed up by the howl of something i couldn't quite identify

an old brick building with mold stained windowsills

a trailer that had holes in the walls and a carpet that when pulled back revealed the dirt ground beneath the cracks,

and that 1978 red ford fiesta that always had a cooler in the hatchback.  just in case i needed to escape to the quiet buzz of the forest and the crackle of a fire carefully made with kindling cut up with the hatchet that lived beside the cooler.

i have had many homes that lived under my skin

in the quiet spaces in between the living

in the lost howl of my insecurities and the gruff growl of my rising up

a bruised knee

a soft sigh

a whisper and a scream.

my little house now holds the pieces of all those lives drawn out on wax paper and melted in the sunshine, smears of colours that define and redefine and then redefine again.

because life is hard yeah.  it just is.  and it is easy too when you are lying in the sunshine brown skin baking in the light, when your moccasins curl under the afghan you knitted that one year and you don't have to go out into the cold, when eyelids flutter in the in between where you are no longer sure which reality is the truth, the dream or the awake and in that moment it doesn't matter because they are both real and neither are real and that is a good easy place to be.

and home is a scar that is always there, that your finger can trace backwards to the moment it came to be.

and home is a smell that arises out of nowhere and transports you to a place that you knew so well, a place long gone now yet always somehow embedded in the cells that make up the body that you house.

and home is that body that is made mostly of water, that shimmers and changes as the light and the darkness roam across the skin and reflects back the demons and angels that war inside of you.

and home is ever changing and always static.

home is the holy that is you.

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the lonely winter

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(holga / ilford 100 film)

winter feels so very lonely to me this year and i have been thinking about the whys of this and whether this is a new feeling with respect to winter or a leftover emotion from winter's past and my observations are this,

  • we walk our dog every single night at the same time as it is a routine that he needs and demands and we give him because his life has not always felt safe and he is a rescue dog and that is just the way it is.  it is a little thing that makes him feel secure and i get it because i have the soul of a rescue dog and routine helps me feel much the same way even though i jump off cliffs and leave my comfort zone all the time but i keep routine within that.  digression is my middle name.  in the spring, summer and fall we are always running into people and their dogs, there are a lot of dog lovers in our hood.  now that winter had deeply rooted itself and our 6:00 pm walks are now in the black of night, we never run into anyone on our lonely walk of three.  not a peep.  there is the occasional car but otherwise just the frosty breath of our snow crunch walk.  it is a good lonely actually as it feels as though the white world is ours and ours alone.  but i wonder about the doggies and i wonder if they still get their daily exercise and exploration and play outside as they bark out of windows at our ty dog proudly prancing in his booties and coat.
  • the snow muffles sound in a way that feels lonely and the wind howls and blows the snow around and you tighten your hood and pull down your toque and delve down deeper into your scarf until your face is barely visible, a lonely bulky figure, indistinguishable from the next, walking head down at a fast pace not stopping to smile to make conversation because the cold prevents you from even wanting to stop at the crosswalk never mind for another person.  isolating lonely which is not a good lonely.
  • "lets meet up for coffee or a drink or lunch" happens less in the winter because leaving the warm cozy of your home feels less than desirable.  going anywhere is a huge pain.  you have to warm up the car which entails clearing off any snow that may have accumulated on said car, defrost the windows and scrape off any large chunks of ice.  you have to pull on your boots, wrap a scarf around your neck, ensure you have enough layers on then pull the parka over top and oh crap the keys are on the table instead the side table where they are supposed to be and so off come the boots because they are still wet and frozen from your last trip and then back on and oh crap your hair is pulling on the parka zipper and so it comes off and you tuck your hair in carefully as you pull it back on.  toque on head, gloves or mitts on and damn it you really need to change purses because getting the cross strap purse on and off over the big furry hood is next to impossible and when are you going to just pull a backpack down and use that because it would be way easier.  breath.  you are almost out the door.  and then you navigate the ice and snow and avoid the bad drivers who want to run into you and finally arrive at your destination with rosy red cheeks and wet knees because you slid down on the ice on the way from your car after somehow managing to secure a parking spot only four blocks away.  and the coffee shop is hot and you are suddenly sweating and it is a big production hug hug kiss kiss, hair pulls and flies in a static dance around you as you attempt to remove all the layers until you finally sit down exhausted by it all knowing you are going to have to do it all again soon.  not to mention, the cold and then melt has caused your mascara to drip down your left cheek and you laugh and talk and reach behind your head and realize you have a huge rat's nest tangle going on that will take you a good 30 minutes of hair brush pain when you get home.  better to be lonely than to deal with all that especially when i already have to go through it to go to work every day and to go to the gym every day and oh you know maintenance stuff like massages, grocery shopping and assorted errands that are needed.  i love you but come over here and i will make you coffee.  oh wait, you would rather stay home too.  i totally get it.
  • white.  the white sky, the white crystals that float in the air, the white ground, the white breathe, the white steam, the white trees, the white overtakes everything.  there is a loneliness that sits in the white that is almost indescribable but when you live with it for months on end, you feel it just below your breastplate, right there.

there are so many beautiful and good things about winter but there is a thread of lonely that runs through my veins at this time of the year.  at the beginning.  during the adjustment period.  it has only been a week since it began and i haven't figured it out yet, re-learned its ways.  i am still using the wrong purse, the wrong gym bag and i time the warming of the car wrong and i am not as organized as i need to be but i will get there and then i will notice the other things, the way the snow lights up the city, the sparkle and beauty and magic in it and it will eventually feel less lonely as people adjust and bright eyes peep out with red cheeks and smile and commiserate with you and total strangers strike up conversations about the weather and we all feel like we are in it together, hearty and somehow brave.  and i will remember to keep my hair in braids and my backpack will make life easier and i will store layers and extra warmth in its pockets and by the time the lights of christmas wash over the snow, i will be looking forward to snowshoeing in the quiet hush of the trees and i will marvel at all the people out and i will skate on the big ponds and laughter will cut across the ice.

and i will wonder why i ever thought winter felt lonely.

the small simple things

coffee and pumpkin cream cheese muffin.  mmmmmm.

 

These days it is the small simple things that bring me comfort, a hot cup of coffee that started with the careful grind of whole beans, the smell wafting up around me before the water is perculated and a pumpkin cream cheese muffin that brings me back to baking the pumpkin and scooping out the meat and blending up the ingrediants to bake again, the warmth of the heated oven and a good book's words swimming in the fragrant air.

There are so many things in my day to day life that I have no control over ranging from the dip in temperature and light, the actions of other people, the lies manufactured by a society that sometimes leans too far into the darkness for me to comprehend emotionally and so I hold fast to those simple things that I can affect, how I spend my spare moments, how I chose to eat and live and spend my left over hard earned dollars, who I listen to, how I move in the world, how I react to who I have to listen to, to read and discuss life with along with the careful words I chose to identify with my self.

There is a fragility that exists alongside the strength that pours down the spine of this life, this living and I have fully begun to realize that the small and simple things are not so small and simple afterall, they are the strong thread that ties me to my choices, to the core of myself.

morning light

morning light

 

I wrote this whole post to go along with this photo.  and then I hit publish.  And then it was gone.  Just like that.  And I have no idea why but I was writing about those perfect moments and there was a line which I really liked and I cannot seem to pull it back out of my brain.  Something about the way the light caught in my throat but that wasn't it, not at all.  It might drive me crazy because it was a pretty sentence and I couldn't help but admire it for a moment but not long enough to capture anything about it but the emotion, not long enough to capture it within the hazy maze of my memory.

And now, I am too tired to try and recreate the sentences that flowed out of me like water drifting over a rain gutter during a fresh summer storm.  And I suppose it means, I shouldn't write about the fleetingness of perfection, of light and of how tending my garden teaches me about me.  Or maybe it means that I shouldn't grow attached to those moments but just appreciate them for what they are much like I shouldn't grow attached to the words that drain from me and I should let them find their own way, soaked into the soil's fertile moistness, seeds for something else, a different kind of beauty.  A beauty that rises up to meet the late august sun as I fumble around, sleepy eyed, rushing off to start a day but stopping briefly to capture a beauty that causes my soul to gasp in wonder.

grateful

I am so incredibly grateful for his loving, inquisitive, mischievous, cuddly, playful, soulful and comedic ways.

"He will make you laugh; he will make you cry; he will try your patience; he will outwit you when he can. And he will love you with an intensity that will surprise and amaze you. He will be your canine soul mate." (Stephanie Abraham, The Boxer: Family Favorite)

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gosh i really do love that crazy goofball, more than i ever believed possible and every day, i am grateful that he came bounding and panting into our lives at just the right time.

june 20 ... in the garden

 

june 18 ... in the garden

may 26 ... in the garden

Spring blossoms and new growth, the early days have a pristine purity, a hope, an expectation and 6 good years in, this garden seems to awaken with a grace that astounds me.

he just makes me happy

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I wonder these days, what I ever did before Ty came into our lives so very unexpectedly.  He is a joy and his energy fills our house with even more love than it held before and it reminds me of the capacity we all have for endless amounts of love.  and it is good.  so very good.

The days continue passing by, snow then rain, then snow and then the clouds parted and the blue sky filled the air with hot sunshine and I swear that I can sit and watch the leaves unfurl their bright spring green newness before my very eyes.  And the grass grows green.  And my heart feels full and the hot breathe of my dog holds me in love and reminds me that transitions can be the very thing that brings goodness into our lives.

Grateful.  So much to be grateful for.  Gratitude fills my days and evenings and the soft slumber of sleep.

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soft light emerges

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(polaroid spectra / expired polaroid image softtone / double exposure)

a snowbank and some wishful thinking

found me with a weekend filled with the soft beauty of tulips, not so soft really as the lady at the flower shop advised to cut the stems and put them in warm water and then add ice cubes because the cold and frozen cube of ice will help them to last longer.  and i was reminded of how they come up in the cold spring, pushing their heads up through the ice and snow, blooming when other flowers are still hibernating waiting for the warm rays of sunlight to melt off all the snow that piled up over the months and months of fall and winter and spring.  why do i live here again?  she wonders and then remembers that beauty rises up from the ice shards of life.

i finally finished the last room of my home, the last of the big organize and redecorate to make room for the silent spaces left behind from his move forward and onwards to live his life as a man.  the room that became the dark space of jumbled furniture and home to all the things i didn't know what to do with, the scrapes of paper and ephemera, the kipple and words that lived too long ago, the polaroid stacks and the cameras jumbled up in a pile, discarded for the notion that i needed to live somewhere else for a while.  i finally finished the last room, the room that would hold the beginnings, the recollections, the ideas.  the room that held the mirror to the worlds inside me and inside of you, covered in abandoned dust.  i wasn't ready to air it out and create a welcoming space for my creativity.  i needed the rest i suppose, the rest that has gone on far longer than i ever imagined.

but i flex my fingers and smile at the light pouring in through the thoroughly pruned lilac tree waiting for windows flung open in scent and know that i am ready to face myself again.

ty, the boxer dog

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So.  We suddenly found ourselves with a woofie dog.  He is a boxer and his name is Ty and he is 5 years old.  And I love him more than I ever thought possible.

I think a lot about how things happen, suddenly and without warning.  I am very intimate with this when it comes to death and catastrophe but am learning that really amazing things can also happen suddenly, without warning.  Of course they can.

We had toyed with the idea of getting a dog, we were thinking a labradoodle because they are supposed to be good dogs for people with allergies.  And I have a lot of allergies made more dangerous and tricky because I also have asthma.  We were thinking about the summer when we could take a couple of weeks of work to train a new puppy.  We have been thinking about it for years.

And then we got a phone call from my son, my big-hearted son who found himself suddenly semi-responsible for a dog who had been neglected and quite starved since December.  Did I mention the big-hearted part.  Of course, he couldn't keep the dog because he lives in an apartment that doesn't allow pets but he was looking for a good home and Ty was staying here and there and everywhere.  Of course, one visit and I and everyone Ty came in contact with, fell instantly in love with his big beautiful eyes that reflected a gentle and loving soul.  He had lots of offers of homes but I am happy to say that he is now a part of our family and the transition has been one of ease.  I can't imagine what I did before Ty came to live with us and it has only been a week.  He fits in seamlessly.  And my allergies, the ones that drive me crazy .. not even an issue with Ty who even sleeps in our bedroom with us.  No troubles with breathing or coughing or sneezing and no reaction to my overly sensitive skin when I pet him, which is all the time.  Hee.  Sometimes things are meant to be and there are certain souls that belong together, fit like puzzle pieces easily sliding into place.

The word that chose me this year is 'enrich'.  And I can say that its lessons are finding me early this year.  Ty definitely enriches our lives.

adjusting to january

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(polaroid spectra / expired polaroid image softtone)

we are deep in the heart of winter's softness, the cruel winds and the blessed sunshine days providing an interlude to the days where all you can see is the white landscape meeting the white of the sky.  it is what i have always known and it is what i have grown to love.  every season has its challenges but also its comforts and beauty.  and i have learned to model my lifestyle to work with the seasons rather than to fight against them.  it has been unseasonably warm this week and that feels like a gift.  every warmish day during the winter months is gratitude i hold close to my heart.

january is time spent in the kitchen juicing up green love and blending smoothies, making salads rich in quinoa and the soup pot is always in heavy rotation.  always.  the entranceways are filled with boots and scarves and toques and an assortment of mittens and gloves.  shovels sit by the back door on the frosty deck and skates dangle from the hook just inside the door. the snowshoes have been pulled from the garage and comfy blankies and pillow line the sofas.  the holidays have been packed away and i eye my gym membership dubiously saving it for days when it is too icy cold for outdoor activities, days when my eyelashes crystalize and my husband's beard sports icicles after a few minutes of being outside, days when a swim and a hot tub are more than appealing, necessary.

***

my days are *steaming bowls of soup *silver shone candle flames *cozy woolen slippers *soft breath thoughts *cinnamon and honey toast kisses

and my nights are filled with a clear star filled sky as i follow a white rabbit down snow sparkled sidewalks. bliss.

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"we're all golden sunflowers inside" (allen ginsberg)

the yellowing

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(instagram)

the yellowing happens every year about this time, it starts at the edges and works its way across the swath of green that shaded the sunbeams from the pages of the book, leafed through and yellowed with age, exposure to the life that is read in lilting tones of slow walks through heat waved air.

it calls out reminders to the busy squirrel who needs to store food and begin preparations for the long cold deep sleep of winter's frost and i pay heed because i have found that honouring the cycles of the earth is an honouring of my life in these wilds of urban northern extremes.  and so i begin my list, already crossing bits off as in careful deliberation of this life that i balance, the walk of two worlds and i have gotten really good at balancing the extremes by embracing instead of fighting the ways that i learned at the knee of well worn jeans, lipstick and powder and bright red curls of nonchalance.

  1. scarves and boots and light gloves have found their way to the front entry alongside umbrellas and a stack of brightly coloured sweaters.
  2. jars of pickles and pickled carrots line my pantry shelves.
  3. tomatoes are picked daily and salsa and stewed tomatoes slowly make their way into jars.

things that need to happen in my world before the yellowing falls to the ground and the trees lay naked against the snowy sky:

  1. house windows washed and sashes painted.
  2. the garden will need to be fully harvested in the coming weeks.
  3. the drying of the hops, mint and other herbs for wintery teas.
  4. the cutting back, the pruning and the moving of a cherry tree and an overgrown hosta to be split.
  5. a new garden bed cut out of the lawn that gets smaller and smaller each year.  this bed will be planted with tulip bulbs, the reminder of the bright light of spring.
  6. the turning over of the garden soil, prepping for spring's planting.
  7. the hammock and bench and patio furniture will be hidden away in the garage even as the shovels make their way to the deck.

and within all those little lists of industry, there will be all that raking up of leaves, mulching them and adding them to compost and garden layers.  the leaves that will cover my yard like a blanket made for swimming, the yellowing turned to gold.

contentment

we drove by the brown and beige ticky tacky houses, my bright red hair a beacon against all that black that i wore, torn jeans and studied scruffy as though i didn't care as much i did and i laughed a bit too loudly perhaps and scorned the contented people that i imagined lived in behind the lanes of green grass perfection even as i longed for a place to call my own, a place to hold my spirit gently, a place to grow into myself.  but that would never be me. i lived for the struggle, the passion that burned so loud that it scorched my fragile heart on one too many occasion. and yet, now, i find myself in this strange landscape of my mind.  i have been here for a while and i shrug out of my chartreuse green sweater, my hair unruly in its straight lines pulled back in two long braids that hang down my back, brown with a few scraps of silver for good measure and wonder what this is, this contentment.  sure, there are ups and downs and watery emotions and even bits of passion knocking against my knees but overall there is a solid root, thick in mass, a root of contentment. 

i thought contentment was giving up, a settling in the most negative way, a loss of fire and ambition, of passion.  but if i look backwards, i can see that all the ways i refused to settle, teeth gnashing and fighting forward dropping my losses slick tar dried up over the hot highway that brought me here, to this place where i have nothing personal left to fight against, to run away from.  i find myself living the life i always dreamed about back when i had nothing but the struggle.  in the absence of the struggle, there is a peace.  and it is not so much a giving up but rather a sinking into the beauty that i have created through the struggle.

"the best way out is always through" (robert frost)

i have been, over the past year, so unsure what this life is in the absence of the struggle but i think i am learning to accept that life doesn't have to be filled with pain and fight and that i can relax and just enjoy what i have inadvertantly worked towards.  this root, this space inside of myself, this peace.

and so i spent the last couple of weekends, weeding the garden while letting the grass grow unruly and painting the little house that holds my peace, the contentment that has become a part of the way i move and breathe.  i think she is starting to look a lot like me.

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And I can still see all her broken bits, her darkness and the struggle that it would take to allow her to shine brightly and I still see her potential and the way it gets easier and easier to see.  I also see how someone who didn't know her from the beginning might think that she was always this way and they wouldn't know about the steps that leaned over at such a scary soft spongy angle ready to topple over perhaps taking down someone else, they wouldn't know the hours and hours of scaping skin that would have to fall off before she could smile brightly and they wouldn't see the scars pressed deeply into her foundation.  But she knows and she blesses them as she sighs and breathes and smiles.  again.

pansies and violas

Untitled in between the pressed pages of a patterned cloth covered writing journal, there are some dried flowers that were pressed beneath the pages.  the owner wrote poetry about flowers and mud and the scraped skin of a knee resulting from furious bike pedals lost in day dreams of a future not yet realized, resulting in cuts and bruises as she flew into the back of parked trucks along the neighbourhood streets.  the petals belonged to a flower bed that lined a yellow house that was built by rough hands that held his family gently.  the flower bed belonged to a little woman who was soft cheeks and set hair and reminded me of indian princesses treading the earth lightly on worn moccasion slippers. 

and when i open the now yellowed pages, i can still feel the hot sun, bright orange shorts and striped tees, the dribble of a cherry popsicle and red streamers hanging from ends of soft rubber bicycle handlebars and i can taste moose burgers and wild blueberry pudding which resembled an upside down cake but was always topped with dream whip and a smile.

pansies, violas ... every year she filled the bed with their happy smiles.  in the summer, we would go for drives through the trees, the sparkling lake waters rising up waves against the white sand beach, smooth pebbles to be thrown and skipped and we would stop at the drive-in by the river cause we all scream for ice cream and the magie pies would chatter and we would call them maggie pies because she was maggie.  

i have tried growing both pansies and violas over the years since we moved into this house, this garden.  but they have always died off within a few weeks.  until this year.  this year i found the perfect spot and they have spread and raised their bright heads up high in colourful smiles.  and this year, the magpies came and they chatter all day long.   and i eat ice cream in the hot summer sun and day dream of days gone by.

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windflower : 'snowdrop' anemonie sylvestris

The starry, fragile windflower,  Poised above in airy grace, Virgin white, suffused with blushes,   Shyly droops her lovely face.         Elaine Goodale—The First Flowers.

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Hardiness: zone 2b makes it a strong edition for my zone 3b garden.   Also, this lovely is a spreader and is self seeding which makes for low maintenance.  I started with one tiny little plant two years ago and it has spread into a lovely mass of dense green foliage with a beautiful spread of spring flowers gently bobbing in the wind reminding me that the white of winter has bloomed into the soft white haze of spring bloom.

She is an early bloomer and now that the summer flowers are beginning to show their colours, her petals have fallen leaving a lovely round yellow seed head which I quite enjoy.

As the snow melted into the earth, she quietly emerged from her cave.  She was a shy girl who kept her head down, nodding in the light of the sun, hoping she would be mistaken for the last frost of winter.  She hid the bright yellow sun of her heart but as the others emerged, she couldn't help but want to engage in delicate conversation and so she threw off her white cloak letting it fall to the ground like snowdrops in the wind and her sunny disposition spread outwards, lifting high to the blue of the sky.

on becoming a gardener : the beginning

Untitled  In the summer of 2006, I gave up my gypsy poverty ways and moved into a house, our house.  mortgage neatly signed and sealed.  At the time, I hadn't given much thought the yard.  All I knew is that I was in pain, my arms empty while my body still leaked and creaked from the trauma of birth and the losses to follow.  We had thought that we would be buying a large enough house to accomodate an almost teenage boy and twin babies and instead we found ourselves looking at a smaller space to hold the three of us close.  From the moment we entered the front door of the little cottage bungalow that would become a safe haven and a home, the sunlight and the charm of plaster and coved ceilings embraced our hearts.  The bones were strong and we skimmed over the obvious bits of neglect that can be found in a house that was built in 1945 and had been a rental property for the past 20 years.  Which brings us to the yard or as I have taken to calling it, the garden.

I had no experience with gardening or even with yard maintenance other than childhood memories of my grandparents garden and the plants my parents grew every year.  I had a self proclaimed black thumb which had somewhat mellowed with age as I had managed to keep one or two house plants alive.  So once we were all moved in, carpets pulled back to reveal maple floors and the walls painted bright sunshine colours that enhanced the light, I took a look outside and marveled at the overwhelm that took over my body.  There were tree trunks all around the house covered in weeds and quack grass and large bushes covered in strange looking bugs.  The front stoop leaned in an alarming manner and the small wooden platform off the back door was bouncy and looked as though it had been covered with plywood over and over again.  It was daunting to say the least.  Especially for a girl who was not only grieving but was also completely incompetently inexperienced when it came to gardening. 

But.  I had a sketchy vision of towering bright flowers filled with butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and dragonflies and I saw roses and pretty little spots to sit and breathe and eat and enjoy family and friends.  I had no idea how to make it happen or even what would grow in this climate.  I remember walking around our beautiful neighbourhood and seeing so much beauty, green lawns and blooms and decks and brightly coloured houses.  They were a far cry from the neglected spaces of our home. 

Fast forward to six years later.  The trim on the house is painted a pretty chartreuse green to and the front stoop is new and stained the same green, we have a beautiful low cedar deck off the back door and a pretty little brick patio.  The spanish stucco garage is painted the same green and we have added a bench, a brightly coloured hammock, green deck chairs and wooden furniture on the patio sporting a bright orange sun umbrella.  All the stumps have been removed and the bug infested bushes are a thing of the past.  It took more than a few summers as we did all the work ourself and I think I alarmed my neighbours when in a couple of weekends, I dug up all the quack grass in the back and then proceeded to dig what looked like a massive hole for what would later become the brick patio.  Last spring, I realized that the bones were now solid.  We still need a new fence but that is an expense that we can wait on for a couple of years and I am making do with what we have with a careful eye on where I plant so that the fence will form a container that fits and doesn't disrupt.

In 2006, I picked up local books on wildflowers and natural gardening.  I bought the book, "you grow girl" and in the spring of 2007, we ventured into the greenhouses that surround our city.  I had never actually set foot in a greenhouse before and I was overcome with all the beauty and at the same time flustered and intimidated by it all.  It seems funny to me now but I didn't even know the difference between a perennial and an annual.  What zone did I live in?  Why did it matter?  I had no clue.  Shade plants versus sun plants?  Mulch?  Bark? Compost?  Oh my goodness, it was an entire language that I didn't understand.  We bought a couple of tomato plants, calling my husband's mother to find out which variety of the seemingly hundreds would be easy for us to grow.  We also bought some squash seeds and carrot seeds and something called chocolate mint which smelled divine.  We were in love with the roses and so picked out a pretty pink bloom variety and after careful consideration, we chose a double flowering plum tree to remember our twin boys because it bloomed beautiful twin blossoms in the spring for just a short while and that felt exactly right.   There had been a little vegetable garden there at some point and so we shoved it up and pulled out the weeds and planted our seeds and tomatoes.  Watching the seeds bloom into green felt like a huge victory though we realized by mid-summer that we had planted everything too close together and who knew squash grew so huge with long tentacles that overtook the tomatoes and carrots and our little bamboo stakes were not cutting it.  Who knew there were things called tomato cages?  Not me.  And the rose bush.  Hmmmm.  I had no clue how to plant roses and so in a corner of the lawn beside the sidewalk along the garage and the intersecting sidewalk that lead from the back slab of wood (as the deck hadn't been built yet), I dug a hole and plopped it in.  It was a tea rose.  I live in zone 3b (in Canada, the harshest zone is 0 with the mildest 8).  A tea rose is not the smartest choice but the darn thing managed to survive through our harsh winters which seem to go on forever.  It finally succombed to death this spring and it was with bittersweet feelings that I dug it out this spring.  The plum tree, however, is bigger and stronger than ever.

 plum tree

Every spring since, I have randomly bought a splattering of the more expensive perennials (as they come back every year, or so I learned) and a lot more annuals, as they are cheaper and spill out blooms all summer long though they only last the season.  And it is all starting to look like the vision I had so many years ago though I have many many more plans and every year, I remove more and more lawn to make way for new plants.  In fact just this year, I discovered that the style of gardening that I have adopted actually has a name.  Cottage Gardening.  Works out well for me since I actually own a cottage.

I am going to start sharing bits of my garden here in this space that I haven't quite known what to do with.  Gardening seems to be a metaphor for my life and all that it encompasses and my garden (or yard if you prefer) teaches me every day and I suspect that will only continue.  I haven't quite known what to do with this blog for a while now, it has changed and evolved over the past 9 years as I have evolved and changed and while I don't necessarily want to turn my blog into a gardening blog, I like the idea of having a space to document both the evolution of my garden as well as the lessons that I derive from being out there, hands in the dirt, face leaned towards the sun.  It brings me peace.

evenings flow like water

UntitledUntitledUntitledUntitled when i am not at work, this is where i spend my hours, sun hot dipping into the long drawn out evenings of northern living. the birds give me song and the lilacs fill the air with sweetness, soon it will be the roses and then there is the colours, the earthy tones mingle with bright jewels and i wonder how it is that i wasn't always here, in the garden soaking up the wisdom of her ways, having conversations with the earth.

it is early days, perennials having just recently poked up their fresh heads while tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and kale and other assorted yummy are recently planted, a bit early even but sometimes i like to live on the edge. we have a short growing season but the long lingering northern light more than makes up for it and so even though the frost and snow are barely off the ground, plants will thrive, soaking up the strong sun that banishes the winter darkness. and i plant, and pull out long blades of quackgrass that like to find their way up through the heavy wooley thyme and i pull down the hop canes and coax the new vines up the fence and i marvel that there are already rose buds about to burst open but mostly, i watch in awe as the light dances across the earth, pouring through me, saving me again and again, the song remembered in my heart.

drowning with my head above water

“We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart.” Pema Chödrön
 

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i woke up one morning, last week, to the cough, the choke, the elephant sitting on my chest and i couldn't breathe. and i coughed and i squeaked as he ran naked through the house to grab the puffer that he carries around with him from his jacket and i sat there grasping on to the covers thinking this time, this was it. and i breathed in air that my lungs refused to take in and tears quietly mingled with snot. but i am here, shallow breathes in.

  now, it was as though it never happened, a slight shake in my hand and a mascara smeared line hiding the bruised pain. it has been a while since it last happened. it was a reminder of all those times being raced to emergency, choking back the nicotine because i refused to live any other way. i woke up this morning to the cold and the rain and the bright green pain of being alive. grateful.

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and then i see that the green of the trees has darkened, filled out and is racing towards the summer sky. there is no stopping it now, the full sway of freshness that assaults me through open windows filling the house with life. the cycles of the seasons never cease to amaze me each and every time. and i ate an entire bowl of cherries last night. gorged myself on the sweetness. drunk on the nector. 

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and so i have been making project lists. last year was the fire that struck down my home town and forcing everyone including my parents to evacuate and every thing sort of stopped and i was lazy and loopy. the year before, i dug a huge hole in the yard and we built a pretty brick patio. i rented scaffolding and painted all the trim on the house a pretty chartreuse flavoured green. i also painted the stucco garage that same colour. and then the beautiful men in my life built a cedar deck. it is going to be a year like that year. i am feeling energetic and alive.

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lush. light. languid mornings of cool water swims, the sunlight hitting my eyes through my goggles as the water drips from my fingertips.

and

the wind in my hair, bike tires gliding over the bumps in the road, music pounding and dancing through my earbuds.

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the colour orange and the number seven.