Monday, May 30, 2011

Frogs, Peonies and Irises

Just Yesterday

Spring has given birth and summer is coming. My first peony opened today. There is nothing like the smell of a peony, it brings me back to my grandmother's 'parlor' and her cut glass vase on the coffee table filled with the sizeable magenta, fuchsia and white ruffled heads of the fragrant flower. To this day, when I inhale a peony, I resort back to the little girl I once was, encountering the flower for the first time, sitting at my grandmother’s feet.

I think those flowers helped give me the robust olfactory sense that I carry with me today. I have to stop and smell the flowers when I enter any garden. I have made some invigorating discoveries by doing so. For instance, my soft purple irises smell like grapes, and their yellow counterparts, like lemons! Along with my first peony came my first iris today too.

My closest friends know that I have been corresponding with toads of late, and now frogs are coming to visit in droves. Each night they croak to me their secrets from trees and puddles. I am raising my very own frogs too, as thousands were born on my pool cover and relocated into my brook, but a few decided to stay for a while.

Ahhh, summer, when every person has a chance to become a child again. I cannot wait to see what else is in store.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Under A Mushroom Cap (With the Toads)

Literally overnight, and unexpectedly, walking in the forest turned into gardening in the backyard. I had been trying to resist it, fighting to get my feet back to the emblazoned path they had become accustomed to, but it seemed like they became leaden on purpose, refusing to move in the direction of the road, instead pointing out the backdoor and into my gardens.

Frog Under Iris but Same Idea
That's okay, I joke with my good friends that I just want to sit under a mushroom cap and converse with the toads for a little while. Warm weather slows me, the days are longer, and there is more time for sitting and dreaming. It is impossible for me not to sit and ponder a flower's face or the hummingbird's jeweled neck while in my gardens.  Household chores feel like I am punching a time clock, reporting back in, my commute only feet back to my door.

Lion Amongst the Hearts
I was inducted into this
world of gardens eighteen years ago when I acquired them (they came with the house) in their wild and audacious state, overcome by brambles. The only thing that grew in nice neat mounds were the dreaded dandelions, (that secretly I like but nonetheless fear when they get too close, or worse, settle themselves between the roots of a chosen specimen.)

In the early stages of gardening, it was rip, cut, and hack out the bad, patch it up with as much good as I could find cheaply; house renovations were going on in full swing so we did our best. Slowly, through the years, a happy mistake would happen, prodding me along and reminding me not to lose hope. I have twelve relatively large gardens around my house.

Sometimes I would listen to friends and family who gardened. I learned a lot from them and received many fine flower splices from their gardens, my most treasured are the peonies, heirlooms from my beloved neighbors. I have only bought one of my nine peony plants.

Soon to Bloom!

I turned page after page of English cottage garden books on many a hot day with a good cuppa in the shade. Probably my most helpful learning tool has been visiting gardens. Every year for the past ten, I go on a tour of hand spun gardens all over my city. I have learned that gardens are about desires.

Grape Hyacinths Run Amok
I made a lot of mistakes, my biggest: thinking I have any kind of control over what a plant is going to end up doing. Sure, at first, I managed it, telling it my hopes for it, feeding it, clipping it, and keeping it contained, but eventually, it does what it wants to and laughs in my face. I have learned to have more respect for flowers.

Every year I have a theme, partially to motivate me, partially to keep me on track. Last year's was, "rip out anything I don't love." I have learned this: you MUST do this BEFORE a flower forms, or you will not have courage. Fortunately, my ripped out plants get to live along my brook, or across it, so it helps me feel a little better about the ripping. Ripping may sound merciless, but sometimes it is just them and you, and survival of the fittest.

Snapping turtle born in my garden 2007
This year's theme is garden art. I am ready to locate treasures to place amongst the flora, and create some pretty  stepping stones too. So on some level, though more at the pace of a summer turtle, than a snow hare, I will still be taking my walks.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Motherhood, Priceless

My thirteen year old son surprised me today. He decided to turn off all of his electronics for twenty four hours, then, proceeded to fold the laundry, clean his room, and wash the kitchen floor. “Tomorrow,” he says, “we will spend the day playing board games.”
I have been thinking a lot these days about what things are worth. It has been a while since I received a steady paycheck. I gave up my career to stay at home with my son.

Lately though, I have been focused on just how full my life really is, in spite of not bringing in large amounts of monetary income in the last decade, choosing instead to be home and work part-time jobs.
I have been reflecting upon work and worth. As it turns out, there are a lot of forms of work, and at least as many forms of payment. What I am learning is a job paying money is not always the most important form of work and money is not always the most important form of payment.
My very wise friend said to me recently, “It is what you don’t have Kellie that is important.” How clever of her to realize this and share it with me. 

 When my friend was growing up her parents both worked, leaving the house from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. She and her sisters had a lot of free time on their hands and because of this, wound up filling up the time in detrimental ways.  She reminded me that by being here every single day for my son when he leaves for school, and arrives home, there are hardships he will not have to endure.
I know there are things that have not happened because I am present. For now, because this is an important time in my son’s life, I am here.
There have been some adjustments because of this choice. I have not traveled as much as I would like to; I decided it was not prudent to get a master’s degree at this time. I drove my last car for a decade. All of this seems like a small price to pay to get to be present every day.
It was really hard leaving my career. I identified myself with it. I worked hard to get there and I loved every minute of it.  
Being at home has been a solitary existence at times, yet from this existence I began to create art, which I had not done since I was a young child. I started to follow my dreams, and I co-wrote a published a book on art and dreams.
I have learned to take care of myself. Since 2011 began, I have walked roughly 340 miles. Being able to set this time aside to do this for myself is worth a lot.
Soon it will be summer and I will spend leisurely mornings sipping lattes on the back porch and playing monopoly with my son. We won't be harried or rushed. We will read, have  picnics, and swim. Earning a paycheck is nice. Spending time at home with my son is priceless.

Monday, May 2, 2011

OMg Yoga

I joked once with my yoga teacher that I was going to create a bumper sticker: Yoga Saved Me. But that’s what it feels like at the end of each class. As I get up from savasana, “dead man’s pose”, a 10-15 minute ultra relaxation period after an hour of stretching, I feel I have been raised from the dead.
I know, it sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But I can’t help it--the transformation I undergo during my yoga class is almost unbelievable.
You would think that something as powerful as this would take a lot of work to achieve, right? Yet it is such an easy process---the hardest part is getting there faithfully, the rest comes easy.
How do I begin to share with you this life altering process that leaves me with an emotional, physical and spiritual make over every time I experience it?
Well let’s start with something as simple as the clothes. In yoga class you wear the most comfortable clothing, which basically amounts to stretch pants and a tee shirt or stretchy tank. The pants come in all cuts and sizes and even have tummy control. You can find this clothing in a variety of places, if you want to splurge for a favorite pair, you can head to the sporting goods store, and if you want a simple pair, you can head to the cheapest department store. I guarantee you will find yourself wanting to live in these clothes. You are not even required to wear shoes, so there is no worry about the right footwear.
And then there is the class itself. Held within the walls of what my friend, the owner, and I nicknamed the womb, the studio I go to is located downstairs in a very peaceful building. As you enter the studio you are greeted at the door by a 4 foot smiling Buddha bidding you a welcome.
Zaanti Yoga Studio

Class starts with a gentle awakening, which means you sit and get relaxed. You tune into your body while clearing your mind with the gentle prompts of the teacher’s voice which I find mesmerizing. Then, you go into a variety of poses, in a calm, rhythmic way. Basically you awaken every part of your body by moving and balancing in different positions than you normally would, when going about your day—though you will find that after just a few yoga classes you will be moving differently out of class as well.

The teachers are some of the most grounded people I have ever met. They choreograph each class based seemingly on intuition, always right on with the mood and the pace of the students. In yoga we are taught to move with each breathe, to fill our lungs wholly, and release our breathe fully. The teachers guide us in breathing to the movements along the way, making the postition, or asana,  flow seamlessly. This is pranayama.
One of the best parts about yoga is, you move at your own pace and do only what feels right; the teacher offers lots of space for accommodations and modifications of poses. I always feel bad when people think they have to be some sort of expert to take a class. This is so not the case, what each person gets, and how each person experiences their yoga class will be different. I know, it sounds impossible that everyone in the same class may be doing things differently, but they are. It’s great.
The biggest benefit for doing yoga is I have learned to accept my body and work with it as it is, rather than forcing it into being something it is not. My yoga teacher talks about how in Hindu cultures the asymmetry between the left side of one’s body and the right side is accepted and honored. This was eye opening to me as both sides of my body are quite different and I was forever trying to push myself into a perfect posture of sameness that is just not possible within my framework. Yet, I am very good at balancing postures when both sides of my body work together to achieve equilibrium. I think embracing my own differences is the key to my health and well-being.

Recently, I have begun sampling different syles of classes; each time I come away with just what I needed. I leave every class on cloud nine and when I take day classes, I inevitably have a great day, when I start it with yoga. Imagine, something as simple as relaxing, stretching and breathing for an hour and a half can change your whole attitude for hours. What else can do this as well and is good for you! ;)

Yoga can save you.