Snow…GO!

This Winter has been one for the record books – at least in my adult opinion.  It may not have set any records weather wise, but it certainly goes down in my book as one to remember. (Or, leave behind.)

According to Mom, it’s similar to the way Spring of 1960 blew in.  My brother was born during a span between two snow falls (thankfully, there was no snow on the ground when it was time to go to the hospital).

I’m hoping this year will not be like the years 1968 and 1996 where snow fell in appreciable amounts on March 21-22 (8.5 inches) and March 19-20 (9.3 inches).

By mid March I hope to have the gardens ready to plant with peas and lettuce seeds at the ready to go into the ground.

I hope.

We’ll see.

Of course, if things don’t go as I plan, and a late March snowfall comes, I’ll just scrape enough snow from the top of our car to make snow cream.

If life gives you snow, make snow cream!

And, people wonder why Southern Folk make a grocery run for bread and milk before a big snow fall arrives.  Everyone here knows you can’t have snow cream without milk!  And, no one wants to cook – so sandwiches and canned soup are a given.  Mom’s like to play in the snow, too, you know. 😉

Seeds of Hope

The day was rainy, the air was warm and it smelled of the promise of spring.  But, the forecast warned of frigid cold, of lows near 0 and highs of barely 20.

My thoughts, of late, have turned more and more toward the gardens and work that awaits me when weather clears and time permits. I’ve not touched either garden since I pulled the last tomato, purple pod pea, and cut the last okra before the first hard freeze turned everything brown.

There is much work to be done before Spring planting and I was feeling that familiar itch to dig in the soil.

Warm days and the scent of damp earth stirs something in me that’s basic and natural. I find it hard to confine my thoughts and self to the four walls that surround me when all that’s in me screams to be beyond them.

Winter – it’s either too wet to work the ground or it’s too cold.  (OR, it’s the Holiday Season and there’s NO TIME.) But, Winter lasts only 3 months and those few months are best spent planning and preparing for Spring’s arrival.

With rain falling and frigid weather coming, the Rare Seeds catalog pulled from our mailbox couldn’t have come at a better time.  I couldn’t work outside, but I could surely work inside – planning and dreaming of an heirloom garden filled with delicious and healthy non GMO vegetables.

Though in my possession only a few hours, the seed catalog is dogeared and marked up.

Winter winds may howl and the ground freeze and heave, but the seed of hope has sprouted within me and I think beyond what is – to what can be.

Deceptively Warm

Last night was forecast to be quite low, temperature wise.  Teen temps with single digit wind chills were mentioned.  One does what one can to prepare for such in the South and then you hunker down, stay warm and hope for the best.

At 6:30 a.m. I peeked out the front door.  There was no frost.  None.  Notta.  The rooftops were clear, grass was brown and cars showed no indication of frostiness.

I opened the door and felt a rush of cold air hit me – cold but not so cold that it took my breath away.

Curious about how things in the unheated garage fared, I slipped on flip flops and threw on a jacket.

The back door opened easily, but the storm door was a solid sheet of ice.  The handle was frozen…had to break it loose to open the door.  “Odd,” I thought since the icing was on the INSIDE of the door and not the outside.

Outside I slipped and as I did so I checked the storm door handle to make sure I would be able to regain entry once finished in the garage.

It was a quick walk from the kitchen door to the garage door.  I passed the garden, now dead and in need of a quick burial.  I slipped under a trailing rosebush and as I swept a cane away noticed how odd it looked (plastic like) and how it felt (frozen). The ground beneath me felt hard.  There was no spring or bounce to my step.

Odd.  Especially so since it didn’t feel all that cold.

The garage door opened easily and I slipped inside, quickly closing the door behind me.  It felt warm within – or warmer than it had outside.  The two light bulbs I’d set to burn were still blazing and the plants looked quite different than those outside.  I breathed a sigh of relief and turned the dryer on for good measure.  A little added heat couldn’t hurt.

Back outside I went and there I stood for a moment.  It felt deceptively warm – dangerously so.  My hands and feet were exposed and neither felt any degree of discomfort.  No chill swept over me. The sun, not yet fully up, gave little warmth and there was no breeze to stir the cold air.

Why didn’t I feel cold?  At 20°F, in a light jacket and old sweat pants, with bare feet and hands, I should have felt cold.

But, I didn’t.  And, the longer I stood there, the more comfortable I became.

The cold should have triggered a primal survival response.  I should have felt the biting sting of the cold on my nose, toes and finger tips.  I should have shivered and quivered and been eager to regain the warmth of my house.  Instead of standing barefoot in the cold, I should have been driven to find warmth.

But, I wasn’t.

When you’re comfortable, there’s no drive to change anything.  When everything feels fine, there’s no realization that something is amiss and in those moments of disconnect harm can befall us.  Deceptively warm situations, people, opportunities, directions…they don’t cause alarm.  They feel right, safe…comfortable.

Deceptively warm – what dangerous situations have you allowed yourself to become comfortable in? What turned off the alarms in your mind, your body?  What silenced that fight or flight response to survive? Why so numb to the truth of the situation and ignorant of the damage it’s doing you?

Why? That’s the question I’m asking myself and you should ask yourself.

Why do I put myself in harm’s way and linger there oblivious to the fact that it’s hurting me.  The facts are plain to see.  The forecast is clear.  No good can come of it.  It makes no sense judge by how it feels when the facts scream for us to take steps to protect ourselves and remove ourselves from the deceptively warm situation.

As I type this, I do so with numb fingertips.  Their blanched tips are once again pink. My toes, however, are still white and though quite cold to touch, feel comfortably, deceptively warm.

Why did I stand out in the cold, unprotected and exposed?  I knew the danger of feeling deceptively warm.

Why did I remain in a situation hostile to life and limb and partake in action smacking of poor judgement and lack of forethought?

Four words reveal my state of mind: inapplicable, impervious, immune, invincible.

Why do you?

I Write

I write so I won’t forget…

…the way the fallen leaves chased after the car that whipped through them as they lay thick on the lane…

…the road covered with orange, yellow, red maple leaves – newly fallen – unbruised, not crushed or creased, unblemished – like golden snow covering the road and raining down with the gentlest breeze…

…the garden in its last blush of bloom – the okra 15 ft tall with new buds and opening blooms atop it – and a freeze warning issued…

…the farewell glance I gave the garden after picking all I could from it before the hard freeze claimed it…

…the last green tomato found hiding beneath a tomato leaf, plucked and tucked safely into my pocket…

…the orange maple leaves on the three trees across the street cascading from said trees in waves of orange, covering the ground, hedge, street beyond…

…my refusal to put away my shorts and don sweat pants even though the wind was cold and whipped my legs until numb…

…the rush to rescue potted plants summered outdoors from the coming frigid blast and the frustrated flurry to find space for them in the crowded garage…

…heat from the “grow” light in the garage warming my face as I removed cold, damp clothes from the washer…

…knowledge that Summer is past and Autumn means business…

…that all work and no play makes Suzan a dull girl…

…Zinnias in their faded glory looked tired and ragged as the wind whipped them and temp fell – with scissors in one hand and a vase in the other I kissed Summer goodbye and brought in what I could of it before the freeze blackens the reds, pinks, purples….

…the snipped tops of okra stalks in a vase before me – hibiscus type flowers, yellow, pink and red threaten to open – I know they will wilt…

…I try to delay winter’s arrival every way I can think of….

…free weather gives way to cold weather and the thermostat is pushed from cool to heat and the furnace cuts on briefly and raises the temp from 64 to 65 for the first time since April…

…thoughts turn to the homeless man we saw at BK – I pray he found a warm place for the night…

…my gears are changing…from warm weather minded to cold…outside in shorts, breathing deeply of the cold windy air, embracing the drizzle that chilled me, refusing to hang onto what I cannot keep and willing to embrace what is now…

…cannot hold in my hand Summer’s beauty and wonder, but I can in my words and memory retain as much through writing as I can allow myself time and indulge myself the pleasure of…

…that October is beyond my reach and November, now here, has begun the countdown to year end activities…birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve…

…the ease of warm weather and less clothing is no longer an option – sweaters, sleeves, jackets and coats, gloves, scarves, and hats become the norm and a necessity…

…that on one trip to BK for a quick dinner we were approached by two (at BK) who said they were homeless and hungry…

…the crisp pinch of surprise 29 degrees and 35 mph wind gives to bare skin….

…that cold zoo mornings offer fantastic walking opportunities with few obstacles and only occasional reasons to slow for animal (or people) watching…

…that I am not a fan of change or of discomfort but I trust I am woman enough to embrace it and move forward through it with joyful expectation and hope…

…I am a survivor and though I may not embrace the idea of change, I do adjust quickly to it and move forward within it…

…that this who I am and how I clear my head and unload thoughts and memories to make room for more…

…who I am and why I am – where I’m going and my journey to get there….

This is why I write, you see.  It’s not for you.  It’s for me.

 

The Swing Season

Two sunny, 70+ degree days opened this week with the promise of Spring.

By midweek the cold nasties had returned and the only memory of the glory of those days was a sunburn.

Today, well…the sun will shine and as it climbs higher in the sky the earth will warm to about 67.  With a stout wind blowing it will feel much cooler.

Ah well…that’s okay.  It’s not yet Spring, and won’t be for another week.  Just as Spring has her Winters, I suppose Winter is allowed to have her Springs.  (Lisa Patton, my favorite weathercaster at WKRN, calls this the Swing Season.)

Eleven days into my Lenten journey, I find myself frustrated for it seems I am in a swing season of sorts…I stay on course for a little while and then I crash and burn. The sun comes out and I find my way again and then a storm knocks me off course and Winter’s blasts force me to take shelter.

I am so accustomed to saying and doing what’s expected of me that I find myself on autopilot…acting and reacting in the heat of the moment.  It’s only after the fact that I come to myself and wonder what got into me and why?

Habit? Personality? Preference? I don’t know upon which hook to hang it.

Self led, most definitely…surely not Spirit led.  It’s a struggle to reign self in…to control that self within that desires to dominate me, rule me, regulate me, control what I say…do…think…how I act.

Situations arise for which I’m totally unprepared…don’t have time or resources to deal with, yet there they are and I’m left with the choice of how I respond.

Off the cuff…on the fly…in the heat of the moment…I often react.  The situation calls for an immediate response, quick decision – there’s no time to pause and think things through.

When the need is immediate, the response should be as well.

Isn’t that right?  It’s what people expect.

Wait…”what people expect”…that smacks of pleasing people and seeking the approval of others.

Instead of reacting in the way I’m expected to, I should pause in spite of the apparent immediacy of the matter and ask myself, “What would Jesus have me say and do?”

Meeting the expectations of others – that’s something I struggle with.  It’s not that I want to be liked.  I feel responsible for others who find their way into my sphere of influence. They expect something of me and I don’t like to disappoint.  No…it’s more than that…my self worth is to some degree wrapped up in who others see me to be.

No matter how I argue…it all circles back to what people think of me…how they think of me. Swing Season is in full swing for me…wow.

This is what my Lenten journey is all about this year…digging out that thing within me that craves the approval of others…that thinks it needs that to live fully.

I can think back on every day this week and see where I have looked to people for approval, for meaning, for fulfillment, for definition – whether by habit or by choice – instead of determining the right thing and asking myself how Jesus would have me respond.

In looking at the life of Jesus and reading the words attributed to Him, it’s easy to see He was able to cut to the heart of the matter.  Perhaps it’s because He saw through all the stuff and knew immediately what the heart of the matter was.  Ah, for the wisdom and ability to be able to do that.

It would end a lot of frustration on my part and free me from idiotic conversations that go no where, resolve nothing, and eat up precious time and resources.

Please, God…teach me how to deal with those things that fall into the category of immediacy…give me wisdom,  give me insight, give me words and clear thinking. Forgive me for allowing Self to react when I should have been acting on Your behalf.

Summer’s End

The high temperature forecast (here) tomorrow is a harbinger of what’s to come.

76 degrees is quite a drop from the 93 steamy degrees experienced two days ago.

Yes, Autumn is just around the corner and Summer is nearing its end.

The cooler temperature will tell the okra, “13 feet is high enough – you can slow down now.” Though it will continue to grow and produce until the first frost nips it, production will begin to slow.  And, for some reason that saddens me.

Autumn has always been my favorite season of the year.  But, this year, I dread to see it come.

And, I don’t know why.

Perhaps because it seems to pass so quickly – no lazy days…a quick change artist that slips in amongst Summer green and exits just before Christmas.

Days pass too quickly and then it’s Winter – the dark, cold days descend on us. Days of indoor activity, dry heat, colds/flu, arthritis pain and stiffness.

But, wait – before I throw myself into an “I dread Winter” mentality – we’ve another week of Summer yet!  And, another glorious Fall lies before us.

September 22 is the First Day of Autumn (Autumnal Equinox) for most of the Northern Hemisphere.

Q: Why do I dread Winter?  Ans: Because it brings me pain, forces me to remain indoors, and creates hardships.

But…why do I dread it? “Dread” is an emotional response to fear.  Do I fear Winter?

No, I think what I fear is change.

Most likely a lot of the pain I feel in Winter is directly related to the use and abuse my body suffers during the long hot days of Summer when I’m out in the heat making things happen.  I push through pain/injury and make the most of the hot days.

But, as Summer ends and Autumn draws near, I feel that odd ache begin within me that is concurrent with Winter’s chill.

Dread settles in and I find myself obsessed with what will be when I should be enjoying what is – the last flash of Summer and the first burst of Autumn.

Summer’s end is the beginning of something new, beautiful, and invigorating. I don’t intend to let dread be a part of my Autumn experience this year.  I’m going to live in the moment, face the future, embrace the changes that Summer’s end brings to me and my world and squeeze all the good out of every minute God gives me.

What about you and that which you dread? Will you toss dread aside and make the choice to live in the moment, face the future, embrace change, and look for the good?

Time to Change Time

I woke this morning at my usual time.  Light through my window was muted.

“Cloudy,” I assumed. “Wonder if it rained.”

A quick peek through the blinds revealed sparkles of dew upon the grass but everything else was dry.

Day was late dawning.

Sunlit hours grow minutes fewer with each day that passes now.  At first I noticed it most in the evening. But, now each morning is a little darker when I rise.

I miss the sun streaming into my bedroom window, wakening me and teasing me to get up and experience the day.

It’s time to change time.

Sun up at 5:30 a.m. sounds good to me.  And, sun down at 8:30 p.m. sounds good as well.  As sunlit hours diminish from 15 plus to barely 10 these next few months, we need to find a way to pack more time into the sunlit hours.

15 hours of living crammed into 10 hours of daylight.  Shouldn’t be impossible.  The government already tells the sun when to get up and when to go down.  Surely something can be done to make the 10 day lit hours of Winter more productive.

Here’s what I propose.  When Daylight Savings Time ends in a couple of months, let’s go on Daylight Investment Time.  We’ve saved all that daylight since, when, March?  Well let’s make it work for us now instead of us working for it.

Hours from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. will be 120 minutes long.  That means instead of sleeping 8 hours, we will sleep only 4. (But the wonderful thing about Daylight Investment Time is that we will feel as refreshed as if we’d had 8 hours of sleep.)

Hours from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. will be 60 minutes long and will give us 3 hours to get up, get ready for work/school, arrive and settle in…normal schedule.

Hours from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. will be 30 minutes long – instead of having 7 hours of productive daylight hours, there will be 14. (What a boost that would be to the economy – all that money coming into paychecks and all that spending….)

Hours from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. will be 60 minutes long to allow time to slow down, settle down…wind down after all we’ve accomplished/achieved in the past 14 hours – and, of course, to allow for TV viewing.

14 productive daylight hours – not bad for dark winter days.  And, with three hours mentioned previously (that are usually sun lit) – 7 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. – there will be a minimum of 17 hours of daylight with the Investment system during the short days of Winter.  That’s two hours more than the 15 hours offered during the long days of Summer with the Savings system.

A quick tally reveals a total of 27 hours.  How’s that for investing time saved? Not only do you have more daylight hours at your disposal during the short days of Winter, but the days are extended by 3 hours.

And, you still wake up feeling refreshed in the morning!

Daylight Investment Time = longer days, more productivity, greater focus….

Yep.  I say it’s time we stop saving time and start investing it.

Locust Trees

Within 4 blocks of my house are three stands of Black Locust Trees.

As a child, I knew where every Redbud Tree, Dogwood Tree, and Locust Tree was within bike-riding distance of my house.

In the years since my childhood the old neighborhood has changed little – except in the areas the Locust Trees grew!

I was excited to find the groups of Locust Trees, but somewhat disappointed to find that they are not yet in bloom.

But, they have leafed out and the racemes are fully formed with flower buds quite evident.

When will they bloom?

When Locust Winter arrives, of course.

And, when is that?

I won’t know until Locust buds burst and a cold snap spells Locust Winter.