Blue Heron Cruise

Yesterday, a group from our church went on a cruise.

You can see a picture of the 40 ft. boat we sailed on here.

Arrival time was 9:30. Hubby, Mom and I were early.

The boat was late.

No matter. We gathered in the shade and enjoyed the company of family and friends as we waited and watched for the boat.

Within about 30 minutes we saw the boat slipping down the river.  It circled and settled at the dock.

The captain welcomed us and we crossed the rolling dock and boarded the boat, selecting the seat preferred (in the sun or the shade) and settled into our seats to enjoy the 90 minute journey on the water.

It was a relaxing cruise.  The boat chugged along at a slow pace and about 45 minutes into the trip, turned around and headed back up river.

Then, the captain surprised us by slipping into a creek – Marrow Bone Creek.

Bass boats and other fishing boats were anchored here and there. We cheered when a fisherman pulled a bass from the water!

Here and there we saw lazy turtles sunning on logs and Blue Herons stalking the shallows.

I looked for gators, but remembered we’re 400 miles north of where we enjoyed gator surprise when out in a boat on the water….

After our cruise, we headed across the river to the Riverview Restaurant for lunch.  Let me just say – the fried whole catfish are delicious!  Fried okra, too!  Yum!

What a wonderful time we had – so relaxing.

I can’t wait for the next one.  I suggested to Hubby that we should look into a sunset cruise sometime. 🙂

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Bagworms!

Bagworms.

The little rascals have lost their childhood appeal now that I’m the one responsible for clearing them from and out of bushes.

I remember (Brother and I) helping Dad pick them from the bushes at church.  It was fun then.

It’s not fun now.

Way back then, before we realized some things we took for fun were really work in disguise, we made a game of everything.  Squeezed just right, the bagworm would pop up halfway out of its little self-made “bag” – a caterpillar, really – and when we released, it would slip back into its bag.  And, if we squeezed them just right, green goo would erupt from the bag….

The bagworms we picked were placed into small paperbags as we picked them. And, when the bag was full, we sealed it.  The filled bags went home with us and Dad built a fire, much to our delight.  And, he allowed us to toss the bagworm filled bags into the flames.  The fragrance was that of evergreen boughs burning.

You see, bagworms have the amazing ability to spin a cocoon (bag) and hang it on the branch of an evergreen shrub, like little Christmas tree ornaments.  The inside of the cocoon is silken…soft and super strong.  The outside is decorated with bits of the shrub cut off by the caterpillar and applied as camouflage to the outside.  The caterpillar lives within the cocoon, hence the term “bagworms” and hangs onto the plant as it munches on the tender evergreen boughs.  As the caterpillar grows, the bag grows as well – from teeny tiny to 2 inches long.

When it’s time for the bagworms to “go through the change of life” they secure their cocoon to the branch with silk, and hunker down while change happens.

Only the male moth ever emerges from the bag.  The female cannot fly and remains within the bag, luring the male in with an airborne attractant. They mate and the female lays the eggs within her silken bag – then dies.

The next spring up to 1000 eggs can hatch…up to 1000 tiny bagworms can be released from one bag that overwinters.

From one bag….  What about the 6 empty, well secured bags I recently found attached to the bush from which I plucked a few large bagworms late last Summer?

Apparently I missed a few.

Mom discovered my lapse about two weeks ago when she noticed the tip top of a particular evergreen bush appeared brown while the rest was green and lush…the same bush from which I plucked bagworms last year.

“Bagworms,” she uttered with disgust.

A quick check confirmed her diagnosis.

Bagworms.  There were numerous tiny bagworms – too small to attempt to pluck from the top of the 8 ft tall shrub.

I poked around in Dad’s shed and came up with a sprayer and Malathion.  A liberal spraying of the infected plant should take care of things, I surmised. After all, they were small, young and tender.

And, so I sprayed, wetting the foliage and the bagworms (as much as possible, the little rascals hide within the boughs).

Two weeks passed and a quick check revealed larger, more abundant, healthier bagworms.  Apparently the Malathion had no affect on them, or I misapplied it.

I grabbed an empty plastic Maxwell House coffee container (the type with the handle and large mouth) and the ladder.  Then, I headed out to the tallest bush in Mom’s yard.

For over an hour I picked bagworms and dropped them into the coffee container.  Wish I’d counted – some were tiny…so tiny I could only feel them, as I moved my hands over the plant, searching for the illusive bags.  Others were 1/2 inch long.  When I finished, the coffee container was over half full of the small, wiggling, climbing bagged creatures – many of which were intent on crawling up and out of their prison.

Don’t think me cruel, but I slapped the lid on the container and set it on the driveway pavement – in full sun.  Yes – I steamed the rascals…baked their little brains.

What once had been fun, was now only work – with more work ahead of me as I keep vigilance for more bagworms.

You can be certain that when summer ends this year, there will be no bags left to winter over.  And, I’ll have a fresh bottle of Malathion ready come Spring.

And – come the end of May, I’ll spray that bush and the one next to it in hope of killing any hatchlings before they don their little bags and become impervious to chemical assault.

Doe-eyed Dove

While in our backyard, minding my own business and pretending to work, I heard something scratching high above my head…in the gutter of the garage.

Several wasps were flitting and flying, dipping and diving around something at the end of the gutter.  As I watched, I heard more scratching, and then a doe-eyed Dove lifted her head above the top edge of the gutter.

I grabbed the ladder and set it below the gutter and ascended, my eyes fixed on the gutter.  Time was of the essence if I was to rescue the dove I felt certain was stuck and being stung by wasps.

As I came eye level with her, I saw that she was not stuck – and the wasps were not attacking her, just flying around her.  She had built a nest there…in the gutter…between the end of the gutter and the opening that leads into the downspout.

She watched me as I looked at her.  Big, soft dark eyes…so like those of a doe.  She made no attempt to fly away.  And, I made no attempt to touch her.

Unwilling to scare her any more than I, no doubt, had already, I descended the ladder and returned it to the garage.

What an odd place to build a nest!  I’m not familiar with the nesting habits of doves and I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to selecting a site and building a nest, I’m the last to ask advice of.

But, to me, this particular placed seemed filled with risk and danger to her brood.  If they survive, what would keep them from tumbling into the hole and down the downspout?  And, what would happen when summer rains fell and flowed from the roof in a torrent, filling the gutter?

As I thought on the dove and her precariously placed nest, I headed off to truly get some yard work done – at Mom’s house.

Mid afternoon, the sky grew dark and thunder rumbled.  Huge drops began to fall from the laden clouds, lightning flashed and then the bottom fell out as heavy drops the size of quarters fell like hail.

I was caught out in it. The drops were so large and so heavy that they actually hurt when they struck me.  I fretted about the dove and her eggs/babies.  Would they be okay?

It was after 6 when I arrived home.  My first thought was to check on the dove.  Out came the ladder and up it I went.

There she sat, doe-eyed and blinking.  And, dry.  Her nest seemed dry as well.  How could that be?

I looked around.  Did it rain at my house like it did at Mom’s?  I know cloudbursts can differ, but I’m only a block away from her house.  The ground was wet.  Yes, it had rained at my house, too.

But…how did the Dove and her nest remain DRY throughout it all?  The water would have poured from the roof…right on top of her and into the gutter.

I don’t understand.

Perhaps an Unseen Hand sheltered her and diverted the flow pattern from the roof above her.

I think back on times I’ve been certain that same Unseen Hand protected me when it seemed all was lost.

It’s comforting to know that I can worry about things other than the Dove and her brood.  It seems Someone else is watching over them.

First Fruits

For several days, I watched fruit grow under the huge leaves of the zucchini plants in the garden.  Recent rains and summer weather had worked its magic and all I had to do was wait.

I’m not a patient person.

Waiting is hard for me.

But I did wait.  And, my waiting was rewarded.

When I waded into the waist high garden, I did so with determination and with focus.  Somewhere under the huge leaves hid treasures and I would have them.

Yes, I would – fresh…raw…on my salad…YUM!

The first plant yielded nothing but huge yellow flowers.  That’s okay, there were 11 more to look under.

With a shout of victory, I held a green zucchini high and silently thanked the Grower of them.

Down the row I went, pulling aside the itchy leaves, reaching between the prickly stems, carefully slicing the fruit from the stalk.

At the row’s end, I counted 3 yellow gooseneck and 5 zucchini squash gathered!

I was exuberant!

And, I was humbled.

These first fruits seemed holy.  I had not grown them.  Sure, I had prepared the bed and planted the seeds.  But, I wasn’t the one who instructed the seed on what to do and how.  I wasn’t the one who gave it life and empowered it to transform water and sunlight into life-giving fruit.

As I held the first fruits in my hand, I felt I should drop to my knees and worship the One who had.

What does one do with first fruits?

I decided to share half and keep the other half for my use.

As I reverently washed the squash and tenderly sliced it, I was thankful for the gift from the Grower.  And, as I placed the first bite in my mouth, I offered, “thanks again” before munching and crunching its goodness.

Gardening is, for me, a spiritual experience.

Before I could even leave the garden, I glanced at the knee-high okra and wished for a few tender pods to grill. Immediately, a passage in the Bible came to mind that warns of discontent and of desiring things we don’t have. Here I was, arms filled with blessings and my heart craved something else.

Contentment comes when we focus on the blessings we have and refuse to dwell on what we don’t have…wish we had…think we should have.

Garage Living

Why do we hang onto things that we no longer need…use…really want?

I look out my back door and can easily see into 10 backyards.  In those 10 backyards, I can see 6 storage buildings as well as garages. Our backyard does not have a storage building but we do have a small garage.

If you entered our garage you would find our lawnmower and my gardening supplies. Our washer and dryer are there as well – it serves as our laundry room.

You would also find a multitude of “things” – some in boxes, some not.  There are bookcases, desks, containers…stuff too numerous to name.

All of it stored in the garage.

Why?

Because our house is small and there is no room for it.

Because we can’t bear to get rid of it.

Because we might live in a larger house one day and want the stuff.

Because it has sentimental value (whatever that is…it seems “sentimental” and “value” shouldn’t be in the same sentence).

Because it belongs to someone else.

Because we simply don’t know what to do with it all.

Within the garage is a maze.  It runs from the back door through the stacks of items, past the washer/dryer, beyond the stuff until it comes to the large front door where it turns right and proceeds across the front of the garage and ends at the far wall where Daughter’s “stuff” resides.

While at the grocery recently, Daughter started to purchase plastic food containers to use for work lunches.

I said, “Why buy more? You have a box of stuff just like that in the garage.”

Daughter replied, “Yeah, I know, but I don’t know where the box is.”

“I know – I found it the other day and placed it where you could get to it,” I answered.

What I didn’t tell her is that the pathway I created to be able to see what was in that particular box no longer exists.  I had rearranged some of the “stuff” and to reach it, one would need to climb over a stack of boxes and things…or recreate a path to it.

I can give her a compass and point her in the general direction, give her a description of the box and wish her luck. I can tie a rope around her waist in case she becomes lost in the maze created by garage living.

“One day,” I say, “things will be different.”

Yes, one day…but not today.

Back to Life

Two weeks ago today, I wrote about the favored tomato plant that unexpectedly withered and languished in spite of all I did to help it.

Before giving up fully on the plant, I snipped two branches from it and stuck the wilted, shriveled, discolored vines into a container of water with a “live or die, I don’t care” attitude.

At first I saw no change, but after a day or so I thought they looked a bit perkier.

I checked them yesterday and was surprised to see the foliage filled out and firm and the two small tomatoes that had managed to hang on seemed larger.

I’ll admit, I stood there with my mouth hanging open.

As I lifted the clear jar I noticed what appeared to be small, white worms scattered about, attached to the vines.  Upon closer inspection, I found, not worms, ROOTS.

Yes, ROOTS!

The vines are growing roots!

Had I dug the plant when I first noticed it wilted, washed the dirt from its roots and stuck it into a bucket of water, I may have been able to save the entire plant (unless, of course, there was disease in the heart of the plant that prevented it from drawing in the moisture it needed.)

Hindsight is always 20/20.  Isn’t that how the saying goes?

Ah, well.  I can’t do anything about the plant itself. It’s dead, brown and crisp.

But, I do have hope of growing Better Boy tomatoes this summer after all.  I’ll give the vines a few more days in the water and then I’ll plant them into the garden and see what happens.

I find it interesting that the vines languished while attached to the sick plant and that it was only after they were severed that they began to truly live.  Their wilt was a symptom of a problem.  They were reacting to something going on at root level.

Is the same true with us?  Do we wither and waste away because of an unhealthy attachment we have to something or someone?

The tomato vines couldn’t sever their attachment to the sick plant.  They couldn’t cure it either.

We, however, can sever our attachment to that which wilts us.  My question is this:

Why don’t we?

Four O’Clocks

Hubby, Daughter and I transplanted ourselves last Autumn, after Summer’s growing season had ended and chilly nights had sent blooming plants into hibernation below the ground.

When we moved in, I had no idea what lay hidden in the yard.  I had been told the previous owner loved flowers and filled her yard with them.  Apart from Iris groups, spent Morning Glory and bare Clematis vines I saw little to indicate anything existed beyond what sight and experience told me.

Spring surprised me as Daffodils, Tulips, Grape Hyacinths, Peonies, Anemones, Lilies, Violets and Daisies popped up from nowhere and bloomed like crazy.  The Iris groups delighted me with different colors – each grouping different.  The Clematis vines produced huge, beautiful flowers.

I was amazed.

When we moved, I brought some of my favorite plants with me – bare root, in mesh bags.  They needed to be planted and so I began a flower bed in the back yard a few feet from the back porch.

As I dug into the dirt, I discovered “things” buried beneath the ground.  I employed Daughter’s help and we discovered many weird potato like things…some too large to dig up.  I removed those I could and dug around those I couldn’t remove, crafting the flower bed around them.

I looked online, certain they were tubers of some sort, and determined they were probably 4 o’clocks.

Within days of beginning the flower bed, I noticed strange little plants coming up all over.  And, I am not exaggerating when I say “all over.”

  • within the new flower bed
  • beside the porch
  • in the grass
  • in the tiny space between the porch and patio

It seemed the more I pulled out or cut down, the more they popped up.

Again, I returned online to see what 4 o’clocks look like. These seedlings resembled the pictures online. I read a little about them and saw the words “can be invasive and hard to eradicate.”

Wonderful…not!  Invasive flowers.

My next question was – what color?  Will they be mixed?  I hoped so.

I decided to pull out each 4 o’clock that didn’t pop up where I wanted it to and ended up with a border of them between the patio and flower bed.

“Nice,” I thought.

What I didn’t realize is how LARGE the plants would grow – especially those growing from the HUGE tubers.  They have overshadowed my flower bed and TWICE I’ve had to enlarge the bed away from them  and their overgrowing reach.

I asked my next door neighbor if she knew what color they bloomed and though she wasn’t certain, she suggested “white.”  The neighbor across the street warned me, saying she had received two plants – both white – and they had taken over part of her yard.

White.

White 4 o’clocks.  Not colorful as I’d hoped.  Not multi-colored. Not various colors.

White only.

I hoped from at least a red, or a pink.  Yellow would have been nice, too.  Anything other than white!

The plants grew and grew and grew.

They now stand almost 4 feet high and are a good 3 feet wide.  And, they are covered with pale yellow buds.

Covered.

Each bud will produce a flower.  Each flower will produce a seed. Each seed will…well, you know where I’m going with this.

I’ll admit, I started to get the shears and cut them off at the ground and save myself a lot of trouble and work.

But, I didn’t.  I delayed and told myself, “Self, let’s wait and see what color they bloom.  If they are all white, we will cut them down and be done with them.”

Yesterday, as the sun was setting, I was on the patio and Daughter pointed to the 4 o’clocks and said, “It looks like it’s white! Look!”

I did look.  Quarter-sized pure white trumpet flowers graced the tops of the dark, lush, blue-green glossy foliage. It was a beautiful sight. I was smitten!

I had fallen in love with my bland white 4 o’clocks.

I leaned in for a closer look and placed my nose within inches of one of the blossoms.  It smelled sweet.  I was delighted.

Yes, I know.  Today, I will have to go out and pick each spent flower. And, I will have to do this every day for as long as they bloom.

And, yes, I know, 4 o’clocks bloom only in the late afternoon and into the evening and to enjoy them I will have to be outside when the West Nile mosquitoes are biting.

I know this.

And, I am willing to become slave to what I abhorred and servant to what I did not want any part of.

Why? Because they please me and they provide me pleasure.  They satisfy something deep within me. They are worth the effort because of what they do for me.

Crazy? Probably.  But, I’m a gardener and gardeners are the only people I know crazy enough to be out working in 90 degree heat on a sunny day, picking off spent flowers before the next batch blooms.

First Wedding Anniversary

Can it be?

Has a year truly passed since Son said “I do” to his bride?

The calendar doesn’t lie. There it is.  June 23.

I think back to this time last year.

June 23 was the end of a hellish, emotional, roller coaster week for me.  Dad had died the Sunday before and we had buried him Wednesday.

The emotional mix and the fatigue I felt demanded relief.  But, there was no relief to be found.

And, here I was heading into another emotionally demanding situation – my son…my only son…getting married!

My desire was to be fully present for them/with them, and to experience their joy and excitement.  The only way to do this was to let go of my grief and ignore my fatigue.

I wanted relief, but what I found instead was release.

When I let go and lived fully in the present I released the weight that bore me down and that release brought relief.

On their wedding day, Son and his bride were lost in the moment and in their love for each other.  It was a beautiful ceremony. Son looked handsome as he stood there watching his bride make her way toward him.  She was stunning…beautiful!

Hubby walked them through their vows and across their “I do’s” and pronounced them “Husband and Wife.” Their joy was infectious, light and freeing. Their happiness, complete as they walked hand in hand down the aisle and out the door.

My son…married…a wife and a life of his own.

It felt so good to be surrounded by happy, celebrating people.  It was easy to forget, easy to release the burden, easy to set aside the sorrow and churning thoughts. I had much to celebrate!  I had much to be happy about.

Son was now married – and not just married to any woman.  He married the best! She’s his true love – his soul mate – his happiness.

Hubby and I danced the night away.

Well…sort of.

Perhaps it was my heart that did most of the dancing.

I’m not sure what others would call the attempts Hubby and I made, but we called it dancing and enjoyed the release it brought us and the relief we felt as we laughed and loved and looked forward to what’s next for Son and Daughter in Love – and for us as well as we began to plan our move here.

A year truly has passed and they celebrate their First Wedding Anniversary.

Much has changed for them in the last 365 days.  Two became One.  And, One became Three.

Three became Four Weeks Old two days ago.

A year ago, none of us had any idea of the joy that lay ahead of us. It was difficult to look forward, to plan ahead, to feel anything beyond what had been experienced.

Release brought relief.

What do you need to release today in order to find the relief you crave?

Zucchini

Mom’s garden is doing well.  Rain has come at the right time, in time, on time and everything is looking great.

The only things that are blooming so far are tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. Behind and under the leaves fruit matures and I am eager to sample it.

Each day I check under the huge Zucchini leaves to see if the fruit is growing and each day it seems the leaves have grown more than the pollinated fruit.

I asked Mom about the huge squash plants and if it;s normal for the leaves to grow faster than the fruit.  She said Zucchini will take over the garden…it grows huge.  And, once it starts producing we will have a difficult time using it all…we will have to give some away.

Looking under the leaves for squash is a little like an Easter Egg Hunt.  The dark green squash can be hard to find in the shadow of the big leaves.  I know from past experience that it’s possible to overlook it until it suddenly appears – a foot long Zucchini with an 8 inch girth.

To look at the squash plants, one would think they are producing like crazy.  But, looks can be deceiving.  What appears on the outside can be totally unlike what’s going on underneath.

There’s a Bible verse that says: People look on the outward appearance but God sees the heart.

Each time I look at the garden, the Zucchini remind me of that verse.  When standing back and looking at the garden, I’m amazed by the health and beauty of the plants.  But, when I make the effort to see what lies beneath I find: appearance can be deceiving – and disappointing.

Oh, I know…this is Zucchini’s nature.

But, it’s also my nature – and your nature – to look at things…at people, too…and quickly assume how things are within.  And, upon that assumption we base so much – how we react, the worth and value we attach to it/them, what we think, how we act, what we do, whether we engage or turn away….

Take the time to lift the leaves and look underneath what appears on the surface.  You may be surprised by what you find…

…in yourself.

sophia 4 weeks old

How is it possible that Sophia is now FOUR weeks old?

Can it be?

I look at the calendar and, yes, I see it has indeed been four weeks, but still I can’t believe it.

Her Mommy said last week that she’s back into her pre-preg jeans (after 30 years I’m still not, but I’m working on it).

I’ve seen pictures of Sophia on Facebook and noted the changes in her – like her eyes open and her awareness of things around her.

If I could change one thing, I would change where I live…or perhaps where they live.  Oh, yes I would.  Next door to them is where I would place myself.

No, no – don’t go there because I wouldn’t – I’m not intrusive.  I would just like to be where I could see her, watch her as she comes and goes and be available for whatever may be needed.

Without my own transportation, I may as well live 400 miles from her for all the good it does me to live only 10 miles away.

Sophia, Big Momma loves you…loves you so much it hurts sometimes because I’m not in your life more than I am.

I love you – Happy 4th Week Birthday!