Life in Purple

I’m full of pent-up energy – so eager to do everything that I’m having a hard time focusing on getting anything done. I just had a month full of health care appointments (with each test/imaging leading to another possible problem resulting in multiplying appointments) and cold, mostly-cloudy weather. Weather forecasters are saying that tonight will be the last night with temperatures around freezing. Father Frost doesn’t seem to know that the last date for frost in my neighborhood is the end of April – he has visited nightly for close to a week.

As I sit in my purple reading room at 8:00 am, having just returned from a lung scan, I sit and enjoy the sun coming through the blinds and the framed spray of purple flowers made by twilling paper, by artists in Viet Nam. This was last year’s Mother’s Day card from my son and I have enjoyed it so much during the past year that I decided to get it framed to hang in this perfect spot for viewing.

As I sit in my warm room I keep glancing to my left, looking out two big windows onto the porch with my purple porch swing. Outdoors is calling me even though it is barely 40 degrees F. so I grab my second cup of coffee and…

I haven’t spent much time on my purple porch swing this spring because of the clouds covering the sun on most recent mornings – the sun that warms me when the air temperature is just above freezing. This morning is beautiful with a very warm sun and I spend time studying my garden down below the porch, thinking about where to put newly purchased perennials and reading the seed package of Zinnias yet again, for information it doesn’t provide – like is it warm enough to sow the seeds now.

I also look at the old and faded quilt I made when I started quilting again after finishing university and had more time. It is hanging over the back of the swing to dry from melted frost collected as it covered a new shrub clematis I planted too early. Jim normally uses it as a cover to protect the front fender as he leans over to fiddle with the engine. He mentioned that it is a beautiful quilt and I had to agree. I have always loved this quilt because the pattern has the same movement as the “storm at sea” pattern. I’ve been studying the contrasts of light and medium dark pieces that make straight lines look curved. This is going to be my next project after I finish two or three other projects I have in process. I will probably start picking fabrics for it and will want to find some purples to match the swing. I find it interesting that I have never purchased many purples so I think a trip to a quilting store will be a part of my future (says my private fortune telling cookie).

I am enjoying my purple pansies that I planted about a week ago. They do best in cooler weather and I usually buy them too late, just before hot weather hits so they don’t last long. This year when the pansies decide they have had enough heat of early summer, I think I will replace them with some of the beautiful new petunias. I planned on planting annuals in pots on the back deck on Wednesday, then Thursday, and then Friday, as the weather forecaster kept adding one more night of cold in the 30’s. I got impatient with this long cold snap in May and planted them yesterday – hoping that pulling them up close to the house at night would protect them from damage. This morning there was frost on the neighbor’s roof but my plants seem to be okay.

I bought three “heavenly blue” morning glory plants last week knowing full well that they should be planted at the end of May. I am enjoying watching them grow as they sit in the sun on my sewing table and just may plant them next week when the temps are suppose to get into the 70’s. Last year was a dismal failure without a single bloom but I read that morning glories do best in poor soil with minimal watering. So this year they are on their own. I also planted some marigolds in little pots but they haven’t sprouted. They are seeds I collected from last year’s plants and I have plenty to sow outside when I plant the zinnia seeds. All of this is to say that I am really into the working with the flowers in my flower garden this year after focusing on eradicating weeds last year. This spring I am still fighting weeds and rapid spreading perennials but last year’s work made a big difference in what I have to deal with this year.

I also also focused my writing of this post on Jude’s Life in Colour: Purple for the month of May. If your life doesn’t have enough purple in it, maybe you need to visit me and enter through my purple door – or, if more convenient check out other photographer’s samples of purple by visiting Jude. Tell her I said hi.

Living in the Age of Covid-19: Control

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View from my sewing corner.

My social calendar is blank, although we have found some low-risk ways of occasionally being with one or two other people. The surest way that I have found to be with people at a distance is to work in my front flower garden. A good number of people walk in our neighborhood and most people say hi and the people we know best stop to chat – but they don’t get too close because they really don’t want to work with me. Even when I tell them there are enough weeds for everyone.

My garden seems really happy right now, probably because I have showered it with attention this year. Because of stay-at-home and social distancing I can’t be somewhere else or can’t have friends over for cards or dinner. As with every spring, the first order of business in my garden was going after the weeds, thinking it would also count as exercise because I can’t go to the gym. As I weeded I remembered that some daylilies needed dividing because they haven’t bloomed much in the past couple of years. Then I realized that the veronica should be moved because the dwarf lilac is starting to encroach on it. And the 12-year-old gold falsecypress was getting too big for the garden even though I did some major pruning in the past two years. Jim took that out along with the flowering almond that no longer had many redeeming qualities, and two ground cover evergreens that were looking their age. That last sentence fragment doesn’t sound very gracious – given that I am also looking my age. Out back by the poppies, Jim took out a beautiful “Limelight” hydrangea that I planted in the wrong place but too long ago to make it possible to transplant it – at least without a backhoe. This year we are really enjoying the poppies and new bird bath that aren’t hidden by the hydrangea.

These are the physical things we have been doing in the garden, along with planting some new perennials. Twelve years ago I started with a blank slate, planting some evergreens and small flowering shrubs to give some structure (the ones we are now removing). Then I started filling in with some perennials from the house we left and from several trips to the garden center. My goal was to get some things growing and fill in the distance between with mulch. It was a long, slow process and I don’t do well with waiting a year or five to see results.

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A new canvas – April 2008

 

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My 2018 garden in early July

But my garden did grow and mature. It survived a few years without much care as I struggled to get control of fibromyalgia that overtook my life. Jim kept the weeds under control, mostly, and one year for Mother’s Day my daughter and three granddaughters came to weed because neither Jim nor I had enough energy to tend to it. In the last few years I have been fighting some very invasive weeds, mostly doing garden crisis control, although I visited some garden centers and would pick up a plant or two of interest to put someplace that was a little bare. Ya, I liked the buying more than the planting and tending.

This year has been different. I actually have enjoyed the process of gardening as much as the excitement of waiting to see how it will look. I bought and planted several new perennials where I think they will accent existing plants. I am contemplating how to best fill in the spots where shrubs were removed and how new planting will improve the overall structure. The fun part is that I feel my 12-year-old garden moving into a new phase in its lifecycle and maybe this change is reflecting a new change in me. Maybe.

I have been quilting and gardening in an attempt to exert some control, to make things work, to create beauty in a world that feels dangerous and on the edge of being out of control. I have been getting pleasure from fixing the plantings in my garden and putting small pieces of fabric together so they make something better than each individual plant/fabric piece, so they work together better.

What I really want is to have an impact on our social problems. What I really want is to be able to control the spread of misinformation, of lies, of wrong-headed beliefs. I want to control what other people are doing (or not doing) that is increasing the deadly spread of the virus that our national leader is denying. I want to get inside the brains of racists and white supremacists and wipe out all the garbage they have in there – and re-order the firing of neurons so they don’t create and spew out hate and injustice.

And on my darkest days I stoop to thinking of really evil things to do to people who refuse to listen and learn from science, who won’t read widely and critically so they can make informed decisions instead of acting on blind instinct. I want bad things to happen to people who put their self-interests ahead of the common good of society. Dear God, am I asking too much of humanity?

This week I am in a dark mood; I feel depressed and have to force myself to do things that normally give me pleasure. It has taken me so long to finish this post that the poppies are in their last day of blooming. Last week I felt that life was about as wonderful as it could get. My world (my bubble inside an insane world) was full of beauty and kindness and graciousness. I have been experiencing these mood swings for some time now and suspect there is a correlation with the amount of political news I listen to or what crisis is being reported. Given that I feel a responsibility to knowing what is happening in the US and around the world, this will be the price I have to pay.

But I have been feeling a difference in how I garden and quilt and maybe even how I respond to the news I listen to and the people I interact with. I am observing a slight shift in how I do my work of living in an imperfect world. In my garden I am feeling more tolerant of the time it takes for plants to mature and taking more interest in creating happy combinations of flowers and foliage. My flowers may be allowed to grow as their DNA instructs them to grow without having to bend to my rules and control (no worry about my giving up complete control, though).

Maybe I’m giving up my wrong-headed belief that I have a responsibility to make the world right. Maybe I’ll try doing what I can to improve our society, but when I can’t do anything I will focus on making beauty in my little corner of the world.

My Florida Orchids

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It is that time of year when we pack up the back of our car with all those things we think we will need between now and April and head for southern Florida. Things like shoes we didn’t leave there, some clothes I enjoy wearing, fabric for two quilting projects that I have started (no I haven’t found a good fabric store where we reside for the winter), a box of yarn to make hats to bring back in November to donate to the homeless shelter (and another plastic box with all my knitting needles, etc), camera gear, and some boxes that JB has packed up. And of course all our electronics and their respective charging cords.

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Our southern winter life and our northern summer life are so different that there isn’t much in either place to trigger memories of what life is like in the other. When I am in one place I seldom think of the other, so I experienced a delightful surprise when I opened this file of photos of the orchids I have attached to the trees around our condo. If I remember right I have eight or ten, some blooming in fall and some in spring. This orchid is a winter/spring bloomer so I’m now excited to see the fall bloomers that will be waiting for me.

Thanks, Cee, for inspiring me to post these posies and do a little writing. I’ve been experiencing a blogging block lately.

 

August is my Favorite Morning

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I’ve been missing morning this summer. Not all of them because once a week Julie and I leave kinda early for our outings; not all of them because I don’t sleep until noon. I’m a morning kind of person but my stiffening body and just-a-part-of-aging lower energy means that I want to start my day a little slower, a little gentler. Sitting with a cup of coffee on my porch swing or in my reading chair, eating a bowl of cereal with lots and lots of blueberries, smelling the fresh morning air floating on a slightly cool breeze kind of gentle start.

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The mornings I have been missing are when the sun is coming through the tree across the street and dancing around my flower garden. It is the August and September mornings that I have been missing. In May, June and July the sun comes up so early that by the time I get up and pour my coffee, the sun is too strong for garden photography. August and September are those glorious months where we help each other, the sun and I, to rise and revel in the lushness of my late summer garden.

 

I have been pining for that wonderful early morning sun that is so clear and gentle that it makes the dew covered flowers glow. August is such a wonderful month full of gentle morning sun, exuberantly blooming plants, and produce stands brimming with farm fresh produce. Time to take my shower and go for some peaches, sweet corn and tomatoes.

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Leaving Michigan; Leaving Fall

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We left Michigan when fall was just beginning. As we finished last minute packing and I got in the car Monday morning, I noticed a few red leaves had fallen from the Maple tree in our front yard and along our drive south there were trees that had bright yellows or reds on their top branches. The nights had become cold – it looked like frost on the very lowest areas of lawns.

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We made sure to buy some fresh-picked apples at our local fruit stand before we left. We used to go to the orchard and pick a couple of bushels that I made into applesauce to eat during the long winter, make into pies, and the whole family ate for lunches and after-school snacks. This year I wanted some Northern Spy apples because they make the very best apple pies, but Ken said the trees didn’t produce many apples this year – so I bought a cross between Spy and Golden Delicious. I didn’t buy a bushel – only a half peck to take to Florida for a pie to share with friends and maybe an apple crisp. I also bought a bag of Honey Crisps for eating.

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We had spent the previous week cutting back the flowers that had bloomed so prolifically all summer. We like to clean up the flower beds for our return in the Spring – when the perennials are starting to send up green shoots and I am chomping at the bit to buy some annuals. My criterion for whether perennials were cut back or annuals were pulled up were the strength of their blooming and whether the bees and butterflies were still visiting. I left some mums and marigolds to be cleaned up when we return north in November.

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The most painful part, tears in my eyes painful part of leaving our northern home was pulling up my beloved Morning Glories. They were late in blooming this year so I only enjoyed about a week of the glorious blue blossoms. There were hundreds of buds that were growing plump, ready to bloom if a frost didn’t get them first. I kept asking JB to wait just a few more days – until there weren’t any more days. Sunday afternoon I cut the plant down in the front of the house, while JB pulled down the plant growing up the side of his shed out back.

I left my true home in Michigan – the place that is imprinted on every cell of my body. I know the small town, rural place by the smell of it’s freshly turned soil in Spring, the sight of changing colors in Fall, the feel of hot Summer sun and cold Great Lakes water, and the silence of a world covered with snow.

Three days later, I find myself in my winter home, where everything is different in sub-tropical Florida. This is the sixth year that we have wintered in Florida and coming this year feels like coming home – almost. We have decorated our home in a way that comforts and nurtures us. I am slowly learning how the plants that I once grew as houseplants, grow outdoors. And I look forward to getting back to the botanical gardens to take some new photos. This makes leaving my real home much easier.

To see more posts on “home,” click here.