Monarchs

Monarchs hatch on milkweed plants in North America and then spend the winter in Mexico. Twenty years ago, there were at least a billion Monarchs in North America and now there are ninety-three million thanks to herbicides*. Shame on us.

Since we as humans are responsible for this loss we need to do something about it. First, stop spraying poisons! Second, save a little space to plant milkweed, which is the only plant that monarch caterpillars eat, and other native plants for nectar. If we all do a little bit it can make a big difference.

Many flowers are terrific sources of nectar for monarch butterflies. They include purple and yellow cone flowers, sunflowers, marigolds, poppies, daisies, verbena and many more. This is a good time to make definite plans for spring. My daughter, Dianne, has a butterfly garden each year that includes milkweed and native flowers.

 

* Source: “Late Migrations” by Margaret Renkl, New York Times contributor

 

Photos by Pixabay

AUTUMN CLEMATIS

The Plant From Hell

We moved into our new condo in the spring of 2013 leaving behind a big yard and koi ponds and all kinds of trees and flowers. The condo has a small courtyard with a patio and room for a few plants. When it came to plants my husband never understood “few.” He worked all summer filling the soil with every plant he could think of and some he knew nothing about. By the time I added a few herbs the space was completely filled with hydrangea, crepe myrtles, rosebushes, honeysuckle, nandina, ferns and more.

In the summer of 2014 Raymond got to enjoy his courtyard planting, admiring his small plants showing signs of growth. In the winter Raymond died leaving me to care for his garden. I tried, I really did. I enjoyed the roses. I fought the Japanese Beetles. I mulched and watered, fed and trimmed and now all these years later I have a jungle.

I had quickly learned the nandina was invasive, but I was in for a big surprise this summer when I saw the Autumn Clematis from one end of the courtyard to the other. It was beginning to cover up most everything. My daughter, Dianne, is a Master Gardener and with a little research she informed me that this was not going to stop spreading . . . ever. As you can see from the title photo here it is nothing like an ordinary clematis but is quite pretty with delicate little blooms.

Dianne came to my rescue yesterday and dug up the plant from hell as well as the unruly honeysuckle and invasive nandina. I now have clear space in my courtyard and it looks so much better. I also have, five tall bags of trimmings and roots to dispose of and feel a little guilty for removing things that were planted with so much love.

Guest Haiku

Several months ago  https://crookedcreek.live/2019/11/14/haiku/  we discussed Haiku and I asked readers to submit their original poems. A new reader, Jan Beekman, has done just that and here is her Haiku and her lovely photograph to go with it. The yellow blooms inspired her poetry.

Lilies drop petals

Long before other flowers

Best not to cut them

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Photo by Jan Beekman

 

What’s Your Status?

Stay inside! Wash your hands! Wear a mask! Stay 6 feet apart!

I realize all this is essential. As an extra high-risk senior, I appreciate the guidance, but it is sure getting redundant! I have been mostly inside since March 16th and I am bored. Yes, I need a haircut and a visit to the nail salon. Yes, I’d like to eat out. Although I’m not a big shopper, I’d like to go to a mall. But, still, the biggest complaint is boredom. I know that’s a small price to pay for being safe from COVID-19 and I’m ashamed to be complaining so I’ll stop now.

Thank goodness for books! I have been reading one book after another and it sure passes the time for me. Folks have loaned me their books, I’ve ordered online and I’m even re-reading books that I’ve read years ago.

So, that’s my status, I’m grateful for books and for every ray of sunshine that I see from my windows. I enjoy the flowers in my courtyard and I also take an occasional walk in the neighborhood and that is pleasant. Oh, yes, and I’m eating a lot of chocolate.

How are you coping during these unprecedented times? 

 

“Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder, then, that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.” Kierkegaard

Back at the Park

Pope Lick Park

It’s so good to be walking in the park after what seems like a long winter. With each walk, I notice the subtle springtime changes. Buds turn to leaves or flowers, birds are chirping happily, and the peepers are peeping loudly. Below are some of the wildflowers, blooming bulbs and weeds that I saw today. Each is beautiful. 

Choosing a Path

Each time I drive the three miles to Pope Lick I realize how fortunate I am to live so close to the park. Every neighborhood should have such a place where young families, runners, bikers, and seniors can explore. 

My biggest decision each trip is which path to take, just like in life itself. 

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” Rosalia de Castro

Springtime Walk

Back to the Park

For various reasons, some more important than others, I have not been to the Parklands to walk for a long time. Mostly it’s just that during the winter months I’m a wimp about the cold temperatures and it seems that spring has been a long time coming here in Kentucky. Finally this past weekend the temperature was just right and I returned to Pope Lick Park, my favorite along Floyd’s Fork. Other areas of the Parklands are more elaborate and have very interesting features, but Pope Lick is more wild in places and more intimate, except for the soccer fields, but the walk around them illustrates kids and adults interacting in the most positive ways. Whether a team or family event, the atmosphere is competition at its best. 

The Walk

As I began my walk I eagerly looked forward to the signs of spring, but they were not as abundant as expected. Most trees had tiny tender leaves springing forth. There were signs of wildlife, but I saw only a few birds. I did document the extensive work of the resident woodpecker population.  The grass was mostly green, but there were dried grasses all along the trails. 

The further I ventured, the more interesting finds, including some of my favorites. There were cattails shedding like cats, mushrooms living well on dead trees and a sure sign of springtime, May apples. 

The 1.5 mile walk revealed very few wild flowers, or perhaps they are weeds, but they bloomed nevertheless. I wasn’t disappointed, but a little letdown that springtime was not waiting there for me as I had anticipated. 

The Encounter

Then I spotted a tree that was apparently very glad to see me!

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Soul 7

I Believe

I believe my Mother’s essence is in many objects that I have in my home. Not so much in the antique dishes or her personal jewelry, but in the things she infused with her love. I believe that her soul speaks to me through the stitches she loving put into place over the years of her life. I feel her love in the baby quilt she embroidered for her children, the ring pillow she made for my wedding, in the yarn she transformed into beautiful pieces of art and the scraps of material from the clothes she made for her granddaughters and their dolls, later quilted together.

I believe that my Aunt Thelma’s essence is strong in items she left behind and that she must be happy we find both uses and joy in them today. They are things that were dear to her and I have the privilege now of calling them mine. I love them not for themselves but because I loved her so much and I feel her presence when I see them.

She was taught by her church that it was a duty to bear children and it was probably her greatest disappointment in life that she did not conceive. She loved me and other nieces and nephews, she loved my daughters, too. How sweet her smile must be as she watches my granddaughter, who Aunt Thelma never met, sew pieces of lace from her 91 year old wedding dress into the wedding dress that Kate will wear next month. I know her soul is happy today. 

I believe my husband’s essence is the flowers that grow in our courtyard where he planted them. In caring for them, I continue to learn from him about the effort it takes to give beauty its fullest potential. His soul lives on nourishing the plants, keeping me company and giving me purpose. 

I believe that my maternal Grandparents’ essences are present when I pick up one of their Bibles. I know how important these books were to them and not just as a place to record family records of births, marriages, and deaths. They also recorded other important information such as their Social Security Numbers and the date of their last tetanus shots!

Seriously, the Bible was holy to them. They each read from it daily and they carried it with them to their little country church, Mt. Vernon Baptist, twice each Sunday and usually at least once in the middle of the week. Their souls are close by those worn and precious books. 

 

Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.” Evard Munch

Part 7 of 7

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Seasons

“The coming and going of the seasons give us more than the springtimes, summers, autumns, and winters of our lives. It reflects the coming and going of the circumstances of our lives like the glassy surface of a pond that shows our faces radiant with joy or contorted with pain.” Gary Zukav

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Inertia

When I ended the last post I stated “more to come!” with an exclamation point no less. I was excited to go forward and begin our second year in Crooked Creek, but that was three weeks ago. There are times that no inspiration comes. I want to write but cannot seem to start, much less complete anything meaningful. It is not that I do not have ideas or opinions (you know I have opinions), but that I am overcome by inertia. That is the best way I know to describe my chronic depression. It is a bit like I imagine being stuck in quicksand would be, wanting desperately to move, but not being able. Something very powerful holds me back with arms of steel. I know I need to act, to move but it is extremely difficult to do and so much easier to sleep instead. During these past few weeks, I have not taken my daily walks at the park that I enjoyed all summer. It is not possible to explain the reason, or whether there is a reason. Every single act takes all the power I possess, whether it is to prepare food, interact with friends or show up for appointments. Daily life is fatiguing during these times as is the effort of trying to appear as though nothing is wrong. 

A few close friends and of course, family members are aware of this lifelong struggle. I share it with you (readers) today in the hope that it will benefit you or someone you know. If you live with clinical depression please know that you are not alone. If someone you care about is depressed perhaps this will help you to understand their actions or lack thereof. Their lethargy, their cancellations, their lifelessness when you feel they should be excited has nothing to do with you. If they see their doctors and counselors and take prescribed medication then they are trying and likely to get better. Depression cycles, sometimes triggered by external events, but often without obvious reason. 

Seasons

Speaking of cycles, I find it hard to believe that it is October! Can you believe summer is over and we are well into autumn? The past couple of days I did some walking in my neighborhood but found it not worth the effort. Today I returned to my beloved Pope Lick in the Parklands and what a difference it made. Since I was last there flowers have changed, grasses have dried and leaves have fallen. I glimpsed only a couple of very small butterflies. A tiny squirrel was the only animal to show its face and I don’t think that was on purpose, but because of the necessity of gathering for the coming winter. The golden finches seem to be gone. Walnuts are ripe and thumping to the ground below. 

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The cool breeze and temperatures in the 60s made walking in the sunshine so easy. Before I knew it I had walked almost 3.5 miles and I was not particularly tired. It is important for me to remember today’s walk and the inspiration that being in nature provided. For me, it was more invigorating than a massage or one of those healthy kale smoothies or even church. Winter is coming, but the sky is still blue, the air is refreshing and there are weeks of majesty ahead before the next season which will have its own splendor. 

Finally, I must remember with Tom Brokaw, “In the seasons of life, I have had more than my share of summers.”

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“Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again.”                                        Sarah Ban Breathnach

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If you desire more information about depression you may want to read this blog post by John Pavlovitz: http://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/05/10/one-reason-to-keep-living-fighting-depression/

What I Know for Sure 4

The Last Seven

As you may have noticed, this subject has been difficult for me. Quite honestly I am surprised, because I’ve been nothing in life if not sure of my opinions, but therein lies the problem, I believe. Opinions are easy to come by, easy to hold, easy to change. Knowing something for sure is utterly different. Knowing means possessing proof, irrefutable facts, it is a reality, the unwavering truth. This reality is harder to come by. In previous posts, I came up with thirteen (13), if you allow me to include those I threw in facetiously. In order to meet the high bar set by Oprah, in number only, I was determined to come up with seven (7) more things of which I am sure. After much contemplation, here they are:

14. The love of an animal is pure. They give physical comfort, make no demands, don’t pout and are quick to forgive. 

15. Death comes to all living creatures. No matter how we try to avoid this fact it is a reality. 

16. There are no perfect marriages. Some are happier than others, some have more trials, but regardless of the effort put into a marriage, it is not possible to live with another human being without some rough spots and adjustments along the way.

17. White privilege is real. The greatest advantage I’ve been given in life, I have done nothing to earn. It was provided to me at birth simply as a result of having two white parents. 

18. Time spent in nature is rewarding. The sounds of birds, crickets, and water flowing, the feel of breezes that touch one’s face, the glimpse of a small furry animal scurrying along the ground, even the faint fragrance of a wildflower are healing and rejuvenating to the spirit of who we are or were meant to be. 

19. I cannot turn over a new leaf. No matter how many times I try, simply acknowledging that I need to make a change is not incentive enough. For me to make a change, it must involve serious consequences.

20. High heels are detrimental to a woman’s health. Created in Persia (Iran today) to be worn by men riding horses, a raised heel served the practical purpose of keeping the feet within the stirrup. High heels today serve no purpose except to hobble women, making them more vulnerable not only to assault, but to back pain, falls, and injuries to the foot and ankle. Yes, I am aware that they can be beautiful and that women who are strong and agile, can look stunning wearing them, but I maintain that they are not worth the risks involved. 


We have explored and exhausted this subject for now at least. You, the readers, have contributed many things that you know to be true and they are listed below. Please feel free to comment, adding more things you have decided are true over the past month. I believe that something can be true to one of us, yet not all of us. We are individuals and we do not think, feel or believe the same. Thank you so much for sharing with me and with each other. 

What Readers Know for Sure:

I am but a microscopic speck in the great macrocosm of the universe.  
My existence has had a purpose
Life IS worth living
I am a morning person  
I know God is real
A true friend lifts you when you’re down, listens to your problems, is caring and encouraging.
Columbus Day marks the beginning of recorded history in America.
Millions of European migrants came here bringing their music, art, science, medicine and religious principles that shaped the United States.
A leopard can’t change its spots.   
You can’t go back, only forward.
You can’t change the past.
One hand washes the other hand.
You can’t change a person’s thinking when it comes to religion or politics.
What I believe for sure, you may not.
My mother, brothers, and sister have loved me unconditionally.
I have the inner faith and strength to get through very difficult times.
Teachers can change a student for a lifetime.  
Seasons follow each other.
Spring starts from the ground up.
The moon and stars follow the sun. 
Full moons cause strange behavior in people.
Everyone is either predator or prey.
Every action has a reaction.
The human body is the most incredible organism.
Every person has a story.
Every person can choose how to react to their story.
We move through seasons and chapters of our lives individually.
Some decisions are more difficult than others.
When inflated, balloons float up.  
We all die alone, even when others are around us.
We are on this earth as we know it today, only once.

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What I Know for Sure:

I love my family with all my heart.      
Having time alone is a necessity for me.
Native Americans should not be called Indians.
Dish towels should be laundered separately.
April is not delivering in March.   
Love, at first sight, is a real phenomenon. 
Depression should be renamed. 
April had a baby.
Alot is not a word.
I am no Oprah.
CPR does not always work. 
Grandparents are not infallible.   
Adventure Animal Park will continue to make money on April through May. 
The love of an animal is pure.
Death comes to all living creatures.
There are no perfect marriages.
White privilege is real.
Time spent in nature is rewarding.    
I cannot turn over a new leaf.
High heels are detrimental to a woman’s health.   

The flowers bloom, then wither . . . the stars shine and one day become extinct . . . This earth, the sun, the galaxies and even the big universe someday will be destroyed . . . Compared with that, the human life is only a blink, just a little time . . .  In that short time, the people are born, laugh, cry, fight, are injured, feel joy, sadness, hate someone, love someone. All in just a moment. And then, are embraced by the eternal sleep called death.     Virgo Shaka

Part 4 of 4

Theme photo by Akiko Kobayashi (Japan)

One Fear Explained

For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid of spiders. More specifically, I am terrified that spiders will crawl down my collar. My reflexive action upon seeing a spider, no matter how small, is to pull in my neck and hunch up my shoulders making my collar as tight as possible.

Lest you think I have entomophobia, (that is what you were thinking, righIMG_3477.jpgt?) allow me to present just a few photos as evidence that I love critters. In addition to the grasshopper above, here is a caterpillar which was recently chomping on my rosebush. I removed it by hand and placed it in my fairy garden where it could eat to its heart’s content. One day a couple of months ago, I stopped while shopping to photograph this cute inchworm on a flower near the entrance of a grocery. I think that she is adorable and I would have brought her home as a pet had she not looked so IMG_3052.jpghappy there. Speaking of taking bugs and worms home, here’s a cicada that I found on the front porch and it is currently in my living room. Okay, I said that I would always be honest with you, dear readers, so, I must admit that he was dead when I found him, but still, he is here in my house. He’s just too handsome to toss outside. I really do nIMG_3358.jpgot fear bugs. Okay, honesty check again, there is one that bug that I loathe as much as spiders. To me, the centipede is simply an elongated spider, but I do realize that it has more than eight legs, so does not qualify.

Many years ago, while reflecting upon my childhood, I recalled a day at Vacation Bible School at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Shelby County, near Anderson County where we lived. The day’s lessons, songs and Bible verses were vague memories, but I suddenly remembered our play period vividly. I suppose it is not unusual for children to remember recess, but this was different, in that we preschoolers were allowed to play in the cemetery that surrounded two sides of that country church. We respectfully ran among tombstones, carefully avoiding stepping on the graves, until a little boy noticed a small round hole on the top of one. He inspected closely and declared that he could hear something inside! Although frightened, we all lined up to take turns listening. When it was finally my turn, I knelt down and put my ear to the hole. He was right, there was a loud roaring sound coming from the hole and before I knew it there were millions of baby spiders on the ground and my cotton dress. They were on my shoulders and arms and, worst of all, they were crawling down inside my collar. With this horrifying memory, finally I knew why I have arachnophobia, a pathological fear or loathing of spiders.

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Mt. Vernon Baptist Church

The Good Wife

The heat had subsided and autumn had arrived with the week-end. The skies were the bluest and the clouds the whitest. The sun was warm and I had planned to enjoy a local festival, but alas, it was not to be. Good wife that I am, I spent Saturday doing all the chores my husband and I generally did together. Due to his back injury, I had to do all the household stuff, like laundry, cooking and cleaning, alone. After completing it all, I was ready for something more challenging, something outdoors on that gorgeous day.

Our two acres, which usually looked like a park, no thanks to me, was really in need of cutting. I thought it was a perfect time to try out that new John Deere tractor my husband, Raymond, thought was so great. It was a small garden tractor with tilt wheel and other neat gadgets I had never used. I was sure he would appreciate my help, since I knew how he liked to keep the property looking neat. After twenty minutes of his assuring me that it didn’t really need to be mowed, I was undeterred.

The thing really did run like a deer, but it was not a dear to handle. No matter how hard I chased a snake I was unable to run over it, which of course, meant there was a big snake out there holding a grudge. The orchard part of the property now looked rather like a crazy quilt, but there were dozens of beautiful butterflies on the ground enjoying the fallen fruit and I couldn’t just run over them as though they were a snake! They were like monarchs except electric blue! None were lost, thanks to my fancy maneuvering.

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We had a lot of trees in the yard. The big ones still bore my marks from the last time I had mown, thirteen years before, following Raymond’s car accident. The little ones, hopefully, would heal as well this time. Of course those blue spruce seedlings would never see the light of day.  Too bad Raymond didn’t tell me that he had planted them, or maybe he had, but I sure never saw them, at least not while they were vertical.

The whole thing took a few hours to complete. At first Raymond watched his “woman” proudly from the deck, smiling at me as I waved to him with each circle I made around the house. Then, I noticed that each time I drove by his posture was a little more slumped. Finally, his head was hung in his hands. I guess he was in pain, poor guy, so I smiled encouragingly, gave him a thumbs up and kept up my speed.

Finally, I was finished, except for the trim work. I hopped off the tractor and headed for the shed to get the weed whacker and a small push mower, but he called for me to come have a coke and rest with him on the deck.  While I sipped the cold drink, he explained that both the tools I needed were out of commission. He, regretfully, said that he could not find the string stuff for the whacker anywhere and that the little push mower had already been “winterized,” whatever that meant. Just when I was ready for something more physical than just riding around! I was quite disappointed, because there really was a lot of trimming needed, about two feet around each tree, flower, walk, structure, etc., to be exact.

That night at supper when my husband asked the blessing, as he always did, he prayed something like this: “Lord, if you can’t heal my back soon, please hold off on the rain until it frosts.” Now, what do you suppose he meant by that?

Written September 15, 1990 and Edited for Blog September 3, 2016