I Feel the Seasons Changing

Early last week I stepped out on my front porch before the sun was up over the trees of the hedgerow and I felt late summer. The air was cool and dry on my skin and I heard the silence of the morning that seems to come when summer has spent most of her energy and nature is slowing down. I smiled because I welcome this slowing down but it lasted only that one day – then we went into a stretch of the dog-days of August with high heat and humidity.

I’ve noticed that my garden is also starting to take on the late summer look. My attention has shifted from fighting weeds to dead-heading in the hopes that the plants, mainly daisies, will send out some more buds. There is still a lot of color with black-eyed susans, echinacea, zinnias, a few late-blooming day lilies, a bright pink hibiscus, and a few other flowers of various colors sprinkled in. I like what I’m seeing in my garden but I am also thinking about some changes I want to make for next year.

I came across the photo below taken nine years ago and I smiled because I love the goose neck that is featured center front. I believe that was its last year because I realized that it was spreading way to fast and I dug it all out. Well almost – it is still growing in the daisies. And every time I find a plant I think I might let it settle in my garden because I love it so much, and then I remember how fast it takes over – so I pull it out. It will be back next year.

Garden, Early July, 2013

As I look at this photo I realize that the only plant that is still growing (with my consent) in this area is the daisy. The shrubs have been removed, and the cat mint (purple) was transplanted when the stone walls were rebuilt a few years ago. And the lilies are struggling in other places, they just aren’t happy in my garden soil. During the past 14 years my garden has been evolving; and my life seems to be on the same trajectory. Neither me nor my garden are what we used to be.

I know that the aging process involved losses and a lot of change; I developed courses on aging. A life-span development course I developed and taught helped students learn that every phase of life involves some loses that are replaced by new ways of being in our world. Each phase of life has developmental tasks that need to be accomplished in order to be physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy. As we transition from phase to phase some familiar and comfortable ways of being are either taken away or we let go of them. These are frequently treasured privileges, what we have thus far built our identities on. As we approach the end of each phase we need to recognize what we need to give up, what we no longer have, what is no longer useful and then to have the courage to step into an unknown future and learn new ways of thinking and behaving. Have you noticed that what happens to one person in a family or friendship community, impacts the other people, frequently with overlapping demands for developmental change? A fun example to think about is how the developmental tasks of adolescents mesh with the developmental tasks of parents.

Jim and I (and most of our friends) are transitioning into old age. We have retired from paid employment with a mixed bag of sorrows and joys. I miss the status it brought me and the joy of meaningful work that was recognized by colleagues. Jim was overjoyed to leave a job that had become difficult for him to do while maintaining his integrity. He took a part-time job that brought him great joy – can’t wait to get to work joy. He had to leave that so we could spend winters in Florida and travel while spending summers in Michigan. Both of us have been robbed of energy through chronic health issues and normal aging. At core we are struggling to know who we are now that we have moved beyond being productive in our culturally salient way of making money. We both like to help people, but are struggling to know how to help others when we have just about enough energy to take care of ourselves. What seems to have surprised me most is that I am struggling to know how my religious faith can be relevant in my old age. I am in the middle of working through this and will share my doubts, my struggles and new insights in another post.

This link will lead you to an earlier post, from 6 years ago, that is a perfect companion to my thoughts today. https://imissmetoo.me/2016/07/13/memory-of-a-childs-summer/

Too Many Flowers?

Last fall I planted three new bearded irises and two of the six bulbs bloomed. How lovely they were when they bloomed this spring – and it makes me wonder what color the third pair is.

I’m thinking that a clump of pink irises would be pretty in my spring garden but I’m also thinking I would like some Japanese Iris. I think I need to make a decision so I can get them for fall planting. Today I’m focusing on making quilts to take to Florida for a church quilt project. More to come on that. I sure am glad that I’m retired!

Cee also posted a beautiful bearded iris for today’s FOTD.

This & That from My Dot on the Map

Last week I was sitting in my reading room by an open window doing some sudoku puzzles, wondering what deep-in-my-brain memory the sounds and feel of the day were eliciting. It was the experience of late summer when the kids were back in school and all was quiet except for some distant sounds, like maybe a rooster crowing and a tractor in a far away field. Maybe the memories are from long ago on the small urban farm where my grandparents lived. It really doesn’t matter where the associations are buried in my brain because they are of late summer and they are so very sweet.

We were having a period of perfect weather (except for some violent storms), more typical of September than the middle of August here at my dot on the map in Michigan. The days were pleasantly warm in the high 70s/low 80s F. with low humidity and a gentle, cool breeze. The nights were cool enough to sleep under a light quilt with windows open to the sounds of the night chirpers. Many times during the day I stopped to breath deeply and slip into the relaxed state of being that I experience at this time of season.

The bees know fall is coming!

I took refuge in this place where past and present weather-triggered experiences are intermingle, especially taking refuge from the horrors that are happening in Afghanistan, the frightening politics of the far right, and the rising threats of the Delta variant, and all the climate-related disasters. I am trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I can experience the joys of life while there is so much evil and suffering in the world. Does my breakthrough guilt make any sense? I wonder if there is a spiritual connection where I can shed some tears to lighten the burden of some mother and daughter who fears Taliban rules, rape and death?

I am having trouble finishing this post because I continue to be consumed with finding a better work-flow for getting my images from my new camera into Lightroom. In the meantime the dog-days of late summer have hit my dot on the map. It has been hot and humid for the past week and now early fall weather is just something to look forward to.

My flower garden has that late summer look where spring bloomers have either been trimmed back or need to be and summer bloomers are going to seed. Whereas spring has the exuberant energy of new growth and greening trees, and summer has the explosion of blooming flowers and lush dark-green trees, early fall has a tired look. My garden has mostly completed its yearly cycle of reproducing itself through seeds with only asters, sedums and mums yet to bloom (and maybe my morning glory). I enjoy this tired look because it reflects what I experience on good day, the tiredness of work well done. I look at my garden and smile because it is doing such a good job and now I will do my fall chores to keep it healthy.

I need to spend some time this fall thinning out buttercups and daisies that have gone beyond their allotted spaces. I also have to dig out where grasses are taking hold in the middle of clumps. Not easy work for me but I will be more relaxed when it is finished. Weeds tend to stress me out. There are some summer bloomers, like cone flowers and bee balm, that are here and there due to silly planting or self-seeding that I want to put together. Once I get into my fall routine in the garden, I find joy in cleaning up and making it all tidy for next spring. I am given encouragement to keep working by day lilies and irises who are sending up new shoots to get some of the remaining light before they go to sleep for the winter.

Even as this year’s garden is finishing up, I am looking toward future years. As soon as I get all this work done, I will take some photos of the bare bones of my garden to study and mark up as I’m thinking of shifting the ratio of my mixed garden. I think I will be going more towards small evergreens and flowering shrubs with my favorite flowers as fillers in between. If I don’t make these changes I don’t think our aging bodies will be able to maintain this home and we will be looking for a condo. That may mean giving up my purple porch swing.

A Little Bit of This & That on Aging

We visited Mission Point Peninsula going north from Traverse City (the pinky part of the Michigan mitten) a few weeks ago. One of the stops we made was to walk around the lighthouse that used to guide ships to either the east or west forks of Grand Traverse Bay. As we were getting in the car to leave I noticed these sandals that some child took off but didn’t pick up when s/he got in the car. Someone had hung them on the tree sapling, a flag signaling to the parents who may return to the scene of the crime. A silent giggle worked its way up from my tummy and I took a photo. In post processing I decided to use an aged photo color filter that had a warm tone, reflecting the warm feeling this scene elicited of memories past. No wonder I sometimes have a hard time remembering a word I need to express myself, my brain is filled to overflowing with the memories that are woven together to make my life story.

We cleaned the deck today, scrubbing off an accumulation of dirt and green stuff growing where the sun doesn’t reach, rinsing away dropped bird seed and bird droppings. At first we scrubbed side by side, feeling clumsy and awkward as we almost seemed to be working against each other, no pattern or plan. About the time that I felt tired and thought I would have probably stopped if Jim wasn’t working with me, we seemed to settle into assigned tasks without saying a word. He continued on the rails as I scrubbed the floor. We worked, usually in silence, until it was almost completed – when we could look around and tell each other how good it looked. Our aging bodies had grown tired, pain building in my hips and back, and one of us said s/he was going in to rest for a while and the other followed. I am thankful that fifty-some years of marriage has resulted in a dance that allows us to glide through our life tasks with a functional grace.

I feel late summer in the air, and this week we have a delightful break from what could be the dog-days-heat of late summer. The daytime highs have been in the low seventies with a cool northern breeze and nights in the 50’s. Some of the annuals in the pots on the back deck are getting leggy or died from either too much rain or too much heat. Many of the perennials in the front garden are finishing up their blooming so I need to spend some time each day deadheading to keep things looking tidy so the fall blooming plants can strut their stuff to full effect. The front beds are pretty big and I’ve been wondering how much longer I will be able to tend to them. The beds are now planted mainly with perennials with a few bushes and shrubs for winter interest. I think I may start gradually changing the balance so there are more evergreens and flowering shrubs, with perennials as accents. But not this year because I added several new perennials and have some mail-ordered iris coming sometime this month. My aging strategy tends to be a combination of staying engaged to the extent my body will allow while planning for how I can make life simpler for when I have to give some things up.

One of my new coneflowers. What a delicious color.

May Garden Activity

It was unseasonably cold during the last few nights of May here in southern Michigan, just a few degrees above freezing. Absolutely perfect for sitting on my purple porch swing in the not-so-early morning (eight-ish) with a cup of hot coffee. Yes it is a bit nippy but my porch faces east so I am bathed in the warmth of the morning sun. And above is what I see as I look through the railing to my garden.

And I smile and sigh. I love the combination of the chocolate and apricot irises in front of the red barberry bush. But my garden is somewhat out of order this year due to the out-of-order spring weather. Usually the apricot iris doen’t bloom until the chocolate are almost finished. This year the apricot was out about a week before the first chocolate unfurled a couple of days ago.

My daughter gave me a couple of tubers of the chocolate iris that a neighbor gave her as a good-bye gift when my daughter left Little Rock, Arkansas. It seems so exotic, so special. The buds are so very dark and the newly unfurled blossom is a lush silky golden brown, growing lighter and more golden in the two or three days before it withers away. In certain lights there are purple under currents to the petals.

My peony is also blooming on the lower terrace. I wish I had more flowers that bloomed during late spring. Maybe I will look for some yellow irises to plant next to this peony. Any other suggestions? I like the idea of yellow because it would be a nice complimentary color to the deep pink peony and would be positioned just below the apricot and chocolate that grow on the upper terrace.

The Evening Primrose is spreading aggressively at the end of the upper bed and this worries me a bit but it is so beautiful that I don’t think I’ll attack it aggressively – at least not yet. Maybe I’ll be sorry. I love how it poked its way up in the catmint, totally uninvited but welcomed.

See why I think I’ll wait another year before I decide to take action. Has anyone had a problem with this primrose weakening or taking over other plants? How can anything so delicate looking be so strong willed and naughty?

When we moved in over 10 years ago I planted what I hoped would be a tall (but not too tall) and slender (not too big around for a small space) evergreen in the corner, where the porch juts out a couple of feet, on the terrace that is 4 feet below. Beside it I planted a President clematis, given to me by a friend, and trained it up the section of fencing I placed there. You know what happened, right? The tree is much bigger around that I envisioned and the clematis ended up behind the tree, with roots fighting for moisture and nutrients. This year I transplanted it away from the shrub and did lots of amending of the heavy clay with peat, manure and nutrients to help with root regrowth. I have read that clematis don’t like to be moved so I’m hoping it will hang in there with a little pampering. It is blooming so that’s a good sign, I think. Or maybe a last frantic effort to reseed itself before it dies. Ugh.

This spring I was super diligent with weeding – starting earlier and with more energy than normal. It really worked as I’m almost weed free except for some grass in the middle of plants that I can’t get out until it rains again and of course those small pesky weed roots that break off and are left to torment me at a later time.

I have been thinking a lot about adding plants to my garden as I am gently swinging and looking out over the sea of fresh green spring growth. I printed photographs of my garden taken at different times of the growing season of previous years. I studied them and thought and studied them some more and then made a trip to the garden center. Then I would think some more and finally plant my new purchases where I think they need to be. Repeat. Plant. Repeat. Plant. I think I am at the point where I need to find out how the new plants are going to get along in their new homes and with their neighbors before I buy any more. Except…

Except my love of sedums has reignited and I still have some bare spots in my dry, difficult places – plus I found a new garden website that only sells online, has a wonderful selection, ships plants in pots, are reasonably priced, and are located two hours down the Interstate in Grand Haven, on the shore of Lake Michigan. They have a wonderful selection of sedums so I ordered some new hens & chicks to add to the ones that are established…

And ones I bought earlier this year.

The new ones are named “Cosmic Candy”. Now doesn’t that excite your cosmic energy, but you, too, will have to wait to see them until they arrive and are planted. I also ordered a couple of the larger stonecrop sedums to give some late summer color and fill in with low maintenance plants with beautiful texture and color all through the growing season.

And in the fall I’ll be relocating a hen & chicks to Florida. One that I bought this year is only hardy in zone 11 (not even close to zone 5). In the meantime I’m enjoying it every morning and evening as I sit on my porch swing and think about my garden.