Spring is Working Its Way North

We did our annual “spring-in-reverse” trip north last week-end, stopping in Berea, Kentucky for a night at the historic Boone Tavern Hotel. We have stopped here before and the tulips were always at the end of their season, with only a few late-blooming ones in bloom. Not this year – this year we hit them at their peak. They felt like “lens-candy.”

Berea College provides free tuition to young people who have come to the U.S. for asylum so they can get a college degree and also has an arts program that supports the folk arts of the Appellation Mountain region. There are several shops that sell the items that students make so I did a little shopping before having supper in the Boone Tavern dinning room.

We had an enjoyable drive on Monday, surprised at trees budding green and gold, fruit trees blossoming, and spring flowers blooming in Michigan. On Tuesday afternoon we had snow flurries and woke on Wednesday to…

Obviously the path from winter to spring isn’t always straight. The snow melted by afternoon and each day is getting a little warmer, but shorts and flip-flops will remain in the closet for a while longer. We still have flannel sheets on the bed.

Colorful April at the Farmers’ Market

This coming week-end we will be doing our normal spring migration from southern Florida to southern Michigan, approximately 1,340 miles straight up Interstate-75, and I’ll have to do my bi-annual, mind-bending adjustment to change in climate and environment. Current place (Florida) includes April colors of sunflowers and garden produce as the local growing season is drawing to a close. Farmers’ Markets have been busy with both permanent and seasonal residents.

This final week in Florida means that I am using up foods in the frig as we balance our last at-home meals cooked with what-is-left ingredients and going out to favorite restaurants for mid-afternoon dining with friends. Friends and kids are asking why we aren’t staying a couple more weeks – given that Covid is out of control and snow is in the forecast for Michigan. Ummmm, I don’t know – except that the food is about gone in the frig and we have a pile of stuff in the living room ready to go into the car.

And we’re ready to go home. It doesn’t matter whether we are in Florida spring or Michigan fall, I want to go home. I miss the friends in the neighborhood we aren’t in, I miss the differing activities of the other place, I miss the trees and flowers and landscapes. I want to go home because whatever home I’m going to has something to feed my mind and soul and body.

The color I expect to find in Michigan during the third week of April will be fairly drab with small punches of bright, spring color. Nighttime lows will be around freezing and daytime highs around 50 degrees F. Fields are still too wet to plow and the soil will have to warm up before they can be planted. Winter wheat fields planted last fall are now bright green and there is a flush of red leaf buds along the tops of tree rows between fields. Maybe there will also be greening of undergrowth in the wooded areas of our neighborhood, daffodils growing in the parks, and flowering trees on city streets.

I know I will eagerly await the full spring color of May in Michigan, and then worry about the lack of color as the spring blooms fade but surprised when summer color comes with blooming annuals and perennials in gardens. And before I know it I’ll be visiting farm markets with tables full of fresh fruits and vegetables.

My inspiration for this post was provided by Amy’s Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #143 – Colorful April. Thanks Amy, and I really enjoyed your beautiful photographs of April Color.

Thinking of Spring and COVID-19

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We are sheltering at home except for essentials here in southwest Florida. Some of our friends/neighbors have left for homes up north due to Covid-19 – one couple to Toronto because their insurance won’t cover Covid-19 treatment in the US and another couple back to Missouri because both have conditions that increase their vulnerability and they want to be near family and familiar doctors. We’ve been wondering when we should head home, doing a constant cost/benefit analysis. So far the benefits of staying in Florida are winning.

Friday marked the beginning of spring, but it wasn’t much noticed in Florida. Spring isn’t celebrated in Florida like it is in Michigan. It is hard to get excited about the awakening of nature in Florida because this subtropical climate doesn’t have a dormant season. Plants only slow down their growth a little in the dryer winter months and there are always some flowering plants to add patches of glorious color to the landscape. No landscape of drab blacks, browns, and greys here.

On the other hand, the first day of spring can seem like a cruel joke in Michigan. We don’t rush into spring in Michigan, the photos featured on this post were taken middle of May last year at Hidden Lake Gardens in the southern-most part of the state. For people in Michigan, the first day of spring is a celebration of hope that spring will really come – some day soon. I grew up hearing that “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” I remember years when we observed that march came in like a lamb and out like a lion. Yes, we have had some really big snowstorms in late March and April.

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When I use my logic, I know that our quality of life is better where we live in Florida than where we live in Michigan. Here I have sunshine every day, our livingroom and diningroom are open to our screened lanai so I hear birds all day long, I have ready access to plentiful fresh fruits and vegetables at the market a mile down the street, I have daily access to our pool and a great neighborhood to bike in, and I can always drive into the Everglades if I need to run away for a day.

Through my writing I am realizing that it is my grief that is driving my desire to go north, even though my head says I’m better here. I feel a deep loss from loosing church services at a church that feeds our soul, my weekly visits to the Naples Botanical Garden, not having the miles of beautiful beach available for a morning visit or an evening sunset.

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I miss not being able to go to my favorite family-owned restaurants for a cozy, fun meal with Jim and I worry about the financial viability of these restaurants and other small businesses I frequent. Most of all I worry about the service staff that we have gotten to know, who now are facing an uncertain future without sufficient income. Their faces pop into my head and I want to help them but don’t know how.

If I look inside myself, I feel a very heavy heart and a soul that is weeping. Life as I knew it is being shaken, the ground has shifted so it no longer feels stable. It is real for me, as Jim just left to go to the drugstore for some items. I know that he is more likely to get sick because he is a male but I also know that cabin fever attacks him much more quickly than it does me. When he gets home I’ll remind him to wash his hands long and well. I feel sad about our (all of us) loss of security. We don’t know what will happen and no one likes the feeling of loosing a sense of control – maybe that is why people are hoarding toilet paper.

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I remember reading about a study a long time ago, of depression in old people living in nursing homes caused by the almost total loss of control. In one study they gave each resident a geranium to care for and in another they gave them a bird in a bird cage that they needed to feed and clean up after. In both cases the people were given control over something and their moods improved. They became happier people better able to handle the stress of aging within their living environment.

I can take control of several aspects of my life even though the threats I encounter come from a little known virus that is raging through our population and experts are projecting will get much worse before it gets better. Thanks to our freedom of the press and excellent access to social media I can gain a sense of control by informing myself of facts. I listen mostly to MSNBC because I appreciate the army of experts that they interview throughout the day. I read the Washington Post and get updates from the New York Times. I refuse to accept the propaganda of a deep state that is out to get us. The deep state consists of thousands of government employees who have dedicated their lives to making sure citizens are helped by government services. I refuse to be one of the people who believes that facts are fake news. I refuse to be someone who doesn’t listen to news because “experts” are saying something different and they don’t know who to believe. If I am going to maintain some control I need to make decisions – and to make decisions I need information. I need information from multiple sources and to think about who is trustworthy – based on their education and work experience. Over time I have learned that I can’t trust our president but I can trust journalists who tell us what they have learned and who they learned it from. I trust experts while always questioning motives and bias.

I gain a sense of control every time I make a decision to wash hands, stay home, and abide by other guidelines given us by the CDC and experts on infectious deceases and pandemics. I know I am in control when I eat healthy meals and do what I can to get good sleep to keep my immune system strong. I know I have some control over the outcome of this pandemic when I reach out with a phone call, a written note, or through social media to share assurance or comfort or just fun conversation with people I know. I know I will be able to cope with isolation by keeping active with knitting, quiltmaking, editing photo files, working puzzles, exercise, reading and maintaining safe social contact with others.

I have a plan and I know I will do okay during this shitty time (no I didn’t buy extra toilet paper). Do you have a plan? How can you maintain a sense of control?

Blessings and stay well.

 

Blue Bird to Brighten Today

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How special to see this couple when photographing at Hidden Lake Gardens. They obviously feel the call to build a nest so we didn’t linger.

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They were keeping a close eye on us, to make sure we kept our distance.

The Golden Spring

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Golden tree of early spring, at sunset.

I read Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay way back in my first or second year of college – 53 years ago or so. I’m a bit amazed that I remember it, though vaguely, because I don’t have clear memories of many things that I learned way back then.

Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold…

The impact of this poem has been that I’ve marveled at the golden hue of buds on trees, that haze of gold in very early spring that tells me green is soon to come. The golden mist on the horizon that in a day or two turns to a bright green. Frost was right that the gold of early spring doesn’t stay. But as I reread the poem, now that I’m in my 70’s, I hear a meaning that my 20-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend – at least not emotionally.

…So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.

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I’ve been thinking of the aging process, triggered by the 5-day stay of our grandson and his family. They brought with them a 4 year old very active son and a 2 year old daughter. Zachary is turning 30 this year and they seem to have the same response as I had as I was approaching my 30th birthday – “Boy that seems old.” Allison is a few years behind him.

They have energy and take raising their children very seriously. This makes me very happy because I am the biological great-grandparent of the two year old and love the 4 year old as if he were a biological descendant. We are great-grandparents and we are emotionally invested in our young people and also all the parents and babies in all places.

Having our grandchildren and great-grandchildren in our home really tired us out, but I remember the energy I had as a young parent, to work and to play and to love. I also remember the worry and stress, and the numbing tiredness at the end of the day. Yes, those may have been golden days that quickly passed away, but they weren’t perfect days. There were times when I was eager to have a stage of family life move on into a new one.

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The kids left at noon on Monday to visit Zachary’s maternal grandparents. It didn’t take long for us to ease back into our retirement routine of quietly greeting the morning with a cup of coffee on my purple porch swing, of coming and going as I please. Days of mixing up housework and quilting, reading and knitting, gardening and friends so my body is happy and my soul finds meaning.

Daughter, Carol, asked me when it was that I was able to become “great,” as in great-grandparent. Yes, I do feel great, and I have a lifetime of memories of great times. Maybe Robert Frost was right that nothing gold can last – but maybe he should have added another stanza that addresses the fact that the green of summer that spring gold moves into is just as wonderful.

I wonder what the golden days of my today will evolve into as I continue my spring and summer, fall and winter days. There is a darkness in this poem,

So Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.

Yes I have grieved the loss of those golden days of young adulthood, but an advantage of having an aged brain is that I am better able to hold the totality of life, the vast continuum of good and bad, within my heart and know that it was what it had to be and I did the best I could with what I was given.