Artist Reflecting on a Lily Pond

I was taking photos of water lilies from the boardwalk across the lily pond as two women were painting on the lawn to the south of where I was. The pond is perfect for taking photos of reflections, especially mornings before the breeze comes up. I moved around a lot trying to find the best perspective for a good reflection without too many lily pad or lilies to obscure the reflection. I also look for reflections that are bright enough to be distinguishable and not too busy.

Mostly I take lots of photos of reflections in differing conditions, learn from some, like some a lot, and delete some. As we are moving through our second year of the pandemic, it feels like this has been and continues to be my strategy. As we are making plans on moving to our northern home, we heard the news that Michigan is being hit with a large increase of new cases and hospitalizations, with our small home town being the epicenter – in fact for one or two weeks that small town was the epicenter of the country. That made me very uncomfortable, even as I was receiving my second vaccine dose.

I’ve been collecting information from social media and epidemiologists, learn from some, accept some for the basis of my decision making, and disregard some. In the bar graphs I studied in the New York Times this morning, I learned that Michigan isn’t much worst than Florida and that upward movement of infections seem to be caused by variant of the virus. We had already considered that in determining behaviors that we believe are safe post-vaccine.

I’m comfortable with the decision we have made. We are going home as planned and will continue to protect ourselves in the same way we have here in Florida. We have gone out to eat when we could eat outdoors or taken food home to eat. We have avoided shopping during high traffic times and if people aren’t wearing masks in the store. We spend time indoors with very small groups of friends and family who have also been vaccinated and we continue to practice safe behaviors when we go places. When we stop to visit with neighbors while walking around the block we will still stand apart, we won’t shake hands or give hugs except with our kids and grandkids (unless the virus spread continues to get worst – then no hugs).

I continue to find the virus exhausting and stressful – but in a slightly different way now that we know more about how the virus is transmitted and we are vaccinated. I’m no longer afraid of getting covid from my mail or groceries, nor am I as afraid to go out in public if safety measures (distancing and masks) are taken. I have a little more freedom to eat out and socialize but that still takes a lot of prior thought and being vigilant as to whether we feel safe or not. The virus is still impacting on how I think about my life and my relationships – I’m just not sure how I have changed and if the changes will be permanent.

How are you doing?

Quest for the Perfect Tree

Waiting for lights, ornaments, and drape around the bottom.

In that first December of our married life, fifty-four years ago, we bundled up warm and set out on a quest for the perfect Christmas tree. A tree that would become a part of our life story that we were writing together, in one voice. It must be that our “one voice” has diverged over the years because our current memories are quite different. Sometimes I wonder if we lived different lives together – which I guess we did.

I remember the laughter of trudging through the snow in that first season together (or was that a few years later when we had small children?), finding a perfect tree and then seeing a more perfect tree twenty five feet further away – only to discover it had a very crocked trunk. I remember the excitement of finding the most beautiful tree that was just tall enough for the 10-foot ceilings of our apartment, but not too big.

Jim remembers being out in the cold, cutting a good bit off the bottom and trimming away branches. His story includes a way-too-thick trunk needing a lot of whittling to fit in the standard and us heaving and tugging to get the too-big tree through the front door. And his telling includes how long it took as he lifted and shifted and I twisted and tightened to get it perfectly straight in the stand after years of wind and sun sculpting it to nature’s specifications – only to discover as we viewed from another angle that it wasn’t so straight.

I remember the joy and excitement of having that perfect Christmas tree – the most beautiful tree I had ever seen. And I remember how that tree, on Monday morning as I was decorating it, started to fall towards me. And the panic of wondering if I was going to have to stand there and hold that monster of a tree until Jim returned from work after 5:00. I was able to push it back into the corner and I believe we put screws in the wall to tie it in place. But it was a beautiful tree.

There was a challenge and excitement inherent in getting a live Christmas tree because every one was different, due to each one’s unique imperfections. My fondest memories of those childhood and young adult live-tree-Christmases were outings to visit parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends during this season to see their trees. And after echos of “Merry Christmas” and hugs, stomping snow off boots, and shedding coats, scarves, hats and mittens, there were many exclamations of admiration and joy over their tree. And of course it was expected that everyone come to see our tree and for all to agree that it was the most beautiful tree ever.

Our Christmas tree traditions have evolved as our bodies and lifestyles changed. After several years, Jim tired of the cutting and hauling, the sculpting and straightening that went into getting the live tree in place and standing straight, while listening to the Messiah words about “the crooked made straight.”  He also grew to dread dragging the dying tree out of the house leaving puddles of stagnant water and prickly pine needles on the carpet.

I remember when I assembled our first artificial tree, branch by branch as I strung each one with lights. After spending hours putting it up, Jim ascended from the basement and proclaimed how much easier it was putting up the tree that year. I would have given a snarky response if I hadn’t been gazing at our most beautiful tree ever. It was straight and perfectly formed. The branches extended at perfect angles so ornaments hung and nestled in exactly the right place. Visitors had to touch it to believe that it wasn’t a live tree.

We have changed and morphed the artificial trees we have had over the years, especially since chronic pain and aging have limited my energy. Even though I like the benefits of an artificial tree, I am feeling nostalgic for the unique imperfection and beauty of a live tree. I can be fairly certain what my tree will look like each year even though I pick and choose different ornaments for decoration. There is a sense of boredom that comes with the perfection of my artificial trees. But I also bristle at the thought of buying multiple trees to choose among and filling the landfill with artificial trees as I crave new and different. 

I am sitting looking at this year’s tree. It is the same one we had last year, and that one was the same as the year before but without the bottom section, and that one was the same as the five years before but with the pre-strung lights cut off. With all of these modifications it is still a beautiful tree – except for the half string of dark bulbs about two-thirds of the way up.

Aah, the quest and the work continues to have the most beautiful tree ever.  

Coping with Change

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Delphinium planted in the Naples Botanical Garden reminds me to buy some for my Northern garden.

It’s that time of year when things are a-changing for me. It’s that time of year when I move from my winter home in sub-tropical Florida to very early Spring in Michigan. This isn’t the first time I’ve made this change and probably not the last time I’ll write about it. I’m at the point in the process where I have to stop to think where I keep the sharp knives, the spoons for my morning cereal, my favorite spatula, and my whisk. It is the time when I turn on the bathroom faucet to a harder flow instead of turning it off because the faucets work in different directions at each place. It’s a time of achy body and exhaustion – for a little while until I adjust or the weather gets warmer.

And it is the time of shifting friendships. Most of the migratory condo residents had left before we did so I had to give good-bye hugs and feel the sadness of loosing them for a few months. We have lived there long enough to become close and really care about each other. We left a few behind who won’t be leaving until May and I worry about them becoming lonely – like I was becoming without everyone being there. I really appreciate that we have made close friends who will be excited when they see us next October or January. There is a bond that has formed and with that bond is also the price of having to say good-bye – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It is also the time of making connections with friends and family in Michigan. I want to see them all right away and that feels overwhelming but it must be worth it because I am starting to contact people and set up dates. Because people are so much more important than a clean house, my housekeeping will be done in little spurts. We are still getting things put away from the car – maybe next year we won’t take as much back and forth.

This year was complicated by my computer motherboard crapping out the end of March. What a pain! It seems like everything I need is on my computer and I had to wait until I came north to get a new one because the disks for my most used programs are in Michigan. I think that almost everything is loaded and working well, and I am once again feeling calm. I am also finally able to see and process the photos from my last two visits to the Botanical Garden.

The hardest part of not having a computer for three weeks was the loss of connection with people – some blogging buddies and some friends/relatives who are best connected with through social media. I wasn’t able to write any posts and missed reading what the people I follow are writing about. I have some catching up to do.

My take-away is that, even though I get stressed about the state of our government, the amount of violence in the US, conflict and migration around the world, and global warming, what is going on in my personal worlds seem to demand my full attention when there is unsettling change. Family/Friends and security seem to be getting more important, maybe even critical to my well-being. Something for me to contemplate.

Holding the Sun

 

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JB just reminded me that next week at this time we will be packing for our trip back to Michigan. There is so much to go back for, but I don’t want to leave the sun. Maybe if I keep posting yellow flowers…  Magical thinking.

Walk with me Towards Simple Pleasures

Tuesday mornings I go to the Naples Botanical Garden when it opens at 8:00, an hour early for members and people walking dogs. Today the skies are very grey and there is a chance of rain so I stayed home. I must miss this part of my winter routine because I have been thinking of the simple pleasures I experienced on my first two visits this year.

When the garden opened this fall, there was a new entrance, meeting room, an enlarged gift shop, and a restaurant. Last year I watched the buildings going up; I heard the noise behind the fences I walked past on my way to my favorite spot of the day. I had tried to envision what it would look like when it was finished. I felt like a child waiting for Christmas as I imagined what the new orchid garden would be like.

botanital gardens 027-2How exciting it is to see orchids hanging from trees – bright in color, subtle shades, some bold, some delicate. And the thrill of finding one in a pot almost hidden at a eye-level for all the little magical beings that tend the garden during the night. I bet they gather in the pouch for a nectar break.

botanical gardens 035-2The orchid garden is tucked between two buildings – a new place to explore. When I started to move towards my favorite parts of the garden, expecting to experience the pleasant calm that comes from the familiar, I became disoriented. They had designed and planted the new so it flows seamlessly into the old – but not the old garden as I knew it. I had moments when I felt lost, not knowing how to get from here to there even though I had walked it many times. Funny how changes in one part of our world, and our life, can shake up all other parts.

As I moved through the parts of the garden that were unchanged, I would stop and smile at the familiar. This river of grass gives an open view to the brackish marshes and open water that makes southern Florida such a unique habitat for a wide variety of creatures. The Naples Botanical Garden has built replicas of tropical gardens from around the world, but this part of the garden replicates the natural environment of the Everglades that covers most of southern Florida.

River of Grass

Looking Towards the River of Grass

I frequently visit this area looking for the large wading birds but they haven’t arrived yet. I hope they haven’t been grounded in Ohio because of the nasty ice and snow passing through. Two duck having breakfast together gave me an excuse to sit and pause.

botanical gardens 041-2Sometimes I find that my goal of seeing the world and capturing the perfect image keeps me from finding pleasure in the whole of my experience. Sometimes I need to close my eyes so I can better feel the air and sun against my skin, to open my ears to the sounds of the birds. A deep breath centers me.

I continue to move through the gardens, within the old and familiar. But disorientation creeps in making me believe they have put in new walkways; even the old cracks in the cement can’t seem to make the way feel familiar. How strange to balance this excitement for new with my need for the comfort of familiar. I know that I will adjust to this new garden perspective but to escape the discomfort of change I embrace the excitement of the new. I head for the restaurant.

botanital gardens 074-2The Organic African Nectar tea is the best tea I have ever drank, and is a perfect compliment for a cranberry scone. It is early in the season so I am about the only person there which gives me ample opportunity to gaze at how beautifully the architect and gardeners blended the new with the old.

botanital gardens 078-2 Maybe this is a lesson for me as I face the disorientation of new changes that come with aging and passing time, while finding comfort in the familiarity of the world I know. Yes, I can walk this path if I keep my eye on the simple pleasures. Thanks for walking with me.