Sadness and Gladness

Today was a strange, rather unsettling day. It started out fine. I did my normal morning routine (tarot reading, exercise, Wordle, Quordle) then wrote the note to my friend overseas. I sure was glad to have that small accomplishment out of the way! It’s been niggling at me for the past two months.

On the way to the post office, a friend who was driving by pulled over to chat. I was saddened to hear that her husband had passed away. It’s always hard to get such news, but harder for us who have been there (as opposed to those who haven’t had to deal with such a loss) because we have a good idea what the one left behind is going through. We also know there’s nothing we can do or say to make things better. Each of us has to learn to cope the best way we know how, and to learn how to live alone. That sounds cold, I know, but it’s the bitter truth. Still, I feel sad for her and all that she’s going to have to deal with in the coming months and years.

After she drove off to do her lonely errands, I continued to the post office. I was glad to discover that I could walk normally up the ten or so steps to the post office door. It’s a far cry from being able to hike up eighteen flights of stairs as I did when I worked in a downtown Denver office building (so long ago that it was the tallest building in the city), but ever since I damaged my knees, I’ve had to climb stairs the way a small child does. One foot up and then the other foot dragged up to the same step.

I was glad to discover that the postage to a European country is relatively cheap — only twice what it is to send a letter domestically.

I was glad that this was such a nice, cool day that I could get my errands done and still be able to do some weeding in my gardens.

All those things I was glad about today seem paltry in comparison to the sadness of death and a friend’s grief, but still, I was glad, which is why today was so strangely unsettling.

But that’s life, I suppose — the sadness and gladness all jumbled together so we never quite know how to feel.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Rain, Rain

It’s been raining for most of the night, all morning, and will continue for several more hours. This sort of puts the kibosh on my plans for the day, but one thing I would never say (or even mean) are the words to that old ditty, “Rain, rain, go away.” In a drought-ridden area, we need all the rain we can get, even if it’s inconvenient, even if it overruns the drainage system. (The poorly conceived drainage system, I might add.) It’s a good thing I don’t have to work today. The last time it rained so much that the gutters overflowed, it took me more than thirty minutes to trek the two blocks to where I work. Actually, that day it was more than two blocks. By the time I detoured around all the flooded areas, I must have walked close to a mile. Luckily, I brought an extra pair of shoes that day, so I didn’t have to wear wet shoes while I was there.

[I took a break here to look up kibosh. It’s one of those English words that’s been around for a long time, since the early nineteenth century at least, though no one knows where it came from. One interesting theory is that it’s from a Gaelic word meaning “death cap,” which could refer to either the cap the judge put on to pronounce sentence, or the black hood that was placed over someone’s head before they were hanged. Hanging, for sure, would put the kibosh on someone’s life!]

My mention of things I would never say reminded me of an anecdote I read the other day. A new mother was at home recuperating from a Caesarian section. The father had to go to the grocery store and took the baby with him to give his wife some rest. An old woman came up to him and berated his absent wife for letting him take the baby. He responded, “My wife died in childbirth.” That shut the old woman up, but it gave me the shudders. I would never be able to say anything like that for fear that I’d go home to find the person dead for real.

I suppose it’s superstitious of me to refrain from saying certain things lest they happen because generally things don’t happen that way. Words may not really have that sort of power, but they are powerful. Just think of what happens when you tell someone you love them. Now those are magical words!

But I’m getting off the topic of . . . whatever my topic was. Rain, I guess, since that’s what I started with. It’s kind of nice having such a rainy day since nothing can be done. Well, things could be done, such as the errands I was going to run today, but there’s no reason to brave the weather today when tomorrow will be warm and sunny though probably very humid.

I have a couple of unread library books, a cozy place to read, and lots of tea. Sounds like a good rain day, to me.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Garden Withdrawal

I’m going through garden withdrawal. With the weather we’ve been having — cold, wind, rain — I haven’t been in my yard much except to check to make sure things are okay. Everything is fine, mostly because we were out of the path of the snowfall that was dumped in the mountains and on the major cities in Colorado. The only problem is that my grass is growing quickly (apparently, it likes the cold) and I haven’t been able to mow it. It’s not a problem for me because I don’t mind long grass, but it is a problem for the mower because it does mind long grass. Still, I am grateful for such a silly problem. So many people have real problems that devastate their lives. Of course, I’ve had such problems too, but not currently.

It’s funny that without a problem to discuss, a new flower to show, an onerous task to accomplish, I have nothing to say. (Though as you can see, I still manage to say something.)

It’s a good thing I go to work today because otherwise all I’d do is sit and laze around here because without spending time out in my yard, I’ve been able to catch up on the inside chores. There isn’t a layer of dust nagging at me or dingy floors screaming for attention or laundry that’s waiting patiently for me to get desperate for clean clothes. Even my gardening journal is caught up (which for some reason I have a hard time remembering to update) by dint of the fact that there’s been no gardening for me to do.

I’m not even worrying about anything. It helps that because I work so few days now, I seldom see the news. (The only time I watch the news is when the woman I help care for wants to watch.)

There is one task I could do but I keep putting it off because it entails a trip to the post office. A friend moved to a different country in Europe, and I don’t have her new email address. The way I figure, if she wants to hear from me, she should have given me that email address, and since she didn’t, it’s her fault she hasn’t heard from me. As you can see, the use of email sure has spoiled me! Admittedly, the local post office isn’t anywhere near the problem those in major cities are, but it’s still time consuming to mail a letter for overseas. One of these days, I will send her a note, if for no other reason than to be able to cross off that item from my to-do list.

But for today, I will be glad that except for the unwritten note, this time is so uneventful. As soon as this cold spell passes and my garden withdrawal a thing of the past, I’ll have more than enough work to keep me busy.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Cottage Garden

A friend once referred to my house as a cottage. I made some sort of noncommittal response, and whatever my remark was, she took it to mean I was insulted. I wasn’t at all insulted. I’d just never put a name to the architectural style of the house. Besides, in my mind (not necessarily in other people’s minds), an American cottage is a summer home, generally near a beach or lake or other vacation spot (though in the mountains, a cottage would be called a cabin) and an English cottage is sort of a fairytale dwelling with a thatched roof and surrounded by a lush informal garden.

If my house were out in the countryside somewhere, it might be a considered cottage, but a house in town generally isn’t a cottage. Still, my house is cozy enough to be a cottage, though it is a tad large (a cottage is typically 600 to 1000 square feet unless one is exceedingly rich in which case those numbers are increased ten-fold).

Come to think of it, maybe she thought I was insulted because of the relationship between the words “cottage” and “hut” — cottage derives from Old English (cote), Old French (kot) and Old Norse (kotten) words meaning “hut,” and compared to a hut, my house is a mansion. To me, anyway.

What made me think of this three-year-old exchange is that my yard is starting to look like a cottage garden. Or rather it’s starting to look like my impression of what a cottage garden is. Which makes me wonder if my house is turning into a cottage after all.

Not that it matters. I tend not to put names on things since a name limits that which is named. For example, Jeff and I never defined our relationship. We were what we were. It was only after he was gone and I started writing about my grief that I had to find a name for what we were to each other. Nor do I give human names to things. People often ask me what the name of my car is. Sheesh. It’s a car. It doesn’t have a name. Nor, despite people referring to the bug as “she,” does the car have a sex. Need I iterate? It’s a car!

So, my car is a car.

My house is a house.

And my yard is a yard. But oh, such a pretty yard!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

A Day Off

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a day off, not just from work but from . . . everything.

Having a day off from work is common now that my hours have been cut way back, but at this time of year, there’s always something to do outside: watering, mowing, weeding. planting. It got very cold last night, almost down to freezing, and it rained for quite a while, so today was not only too cold but also too sodden to do any outside tasks. Feeling a bit lost, I exercised a bit, played around on the computer, did the daily Wordle and Quordle, read a book, ate a meal, caught up on my gardening journal, dealt with my out-of-the-country friend’s mail. And that was all before noon.

I did go outside and wander around the yard checking to make sure there were no lingering effects from the cold. The only problem I found was me — I’d already become used to the heat, so the day felt much colder than it was. I considered taking an actual walk, but the rain started spitting again, so I came back inside.

And now here I am, writing my 971st straight blog post. (I’ve posted a total of 3,446 so far, but now and again I took a break from daily writing, so this current tally of 971 is just my latest spate of blogging every day

Tomorrow will be a lot warmer, but will still be too damp to do much of anything except weed. There’s always weeding to do, and with this rain, there will be a whole lot of weeds popping up.

On a completely different topic, I finally got my master brake cylinder replaced. Although the brakes work great, the warning light still comes on. It could be a problem with the sensor. It could be that it takes a while for the sensor to catch up with the new brake system. Or it could be . . . I don’t know. I’m going to try not to worry about it. I’d much rather the warning light came on when there is no problem because it reminds me to be careful, than for it not to come on when there is a problem. (Seven years or so ago when I was dealing with a crooked mechanic’s crooked employees, someone had cut my rear brakes and plugged the hole in the brake fluid reservoir, so although I (unknowingly) was driving without rear brakes — which caused me to have an accident — the brake warning light never came on to warn me of a problem.)

I’m not going anywhere anyway. I can get most of what I need right here in town, and I hitch a ride with a friend when she goes to the “big city,” our humorous appellation for a nearby town with a few more stores than this one. And, of course, there is the possibility of ordering online.

Besides, why would I want to go anywhere? I’m already where I want to be, even with — especially with — a day off.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Visitors

I felt foolish this morning, going out to water in the 45˚ F chill this morning. I felt even sillier being outside in a heavy coat in the middle of May, but that’s the weather we were dealt today. I considered putting it off, but the next two days are supposed to be even chillier than today. The low tonight is 36˚, which is way different than yesterday’s high of 93˚.

By the time I did several tasks, such as pot the bamboo, plant a lilac in the hole (a hole is a terrible thing to waste!), and pull a few weeds, it started to warm up, and by the time half the lawn was watered, I was able to ditch the coat. It was still cool, but pleasantly so.

It was an interesting morning with lots of visitors. A couple of hummingbirds stopped by to sip from a few larkspur flowers. When I lived out in the country with Jeff, I developed a dislike of hummingbirds because the species that lived there were very aggressive, and they often dive-bombed us. Unlike those hummingbirds, my little visitors were polite, drank their fill, and took off without once trying to attack me.

The bumble bees that visited also left me alone, even though we skimmed by one another on several occasions.

A couple of the feral cats in the neighborhood came to sun themselves on my lawn. (I’ve discovered the older of these two black cats stalking among my larkspurs. I sure hope it’s not after the toad that lives there!) I ran them off because I sure don’t want them getting too comfortable around here, though there’s not much I can do about it when I’m not outside. A neighbor who lives next to the crazy cat man (I don’t imagine he’s crazy except for feeding the myriad cats), is almost choking from the smell of cat urine. So not something I want to deal with. Still, the cats, while not actually polite, did take off running when they saw me.

And the people I bought the house pulled up to the curb to talk to me as I was watering out front. They couldn’t stay to explore, but they were impressed with the way the place is looking. And it is looking good. I’m not sure how much credit is due to me since it’s been a collaboration with me, the contractor, some workers, and nature all playing a part.

My final visitor was (drum roll please) . . . me! After I finished my morning’s tasks, it was too nice to go inside, so I wandered my paths, enjoying the scenery, including the newly bloomed roses.

Most of the places I’ve lived the past thirty years had great long-distance views — mountains, Grand Mesa, desert, or city lights, so one of the reasons I got into this whole gardening thing was that I wanted to create a view so I had something to look at other than neighbors’ houses.

Apparently, even though the yard is a perpetual work in progress, I have accomplished at least part of what I set out to do.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Futile or Not

Yesterday afternoon, as I walked from one room to another, I was struck by a sudden sense of futility, and I wondered what the heck I was doing. Well, I knew I was walking into a room, but that wasn’t what made me stop and think. It was this whole gardening thing. I’ve been so focused on babying my yard (as one friend puts it), that I hadn’t stop to look sideways at what I was doing. And when I did have that change of focus (going through literal doorways is often accompanied by going through figurative doorways) it all seemed so . . . futile. Ludicrous. I mean, does it really matter what we do with our time? Why spend so much time spent on what, in the end, is a rather unimportant project?

Luckily, my doorways are close to one another, so by the time I got to my destination, a second or two later, sanity (or at least a sanity of a different sort) prevailed, and I realized I was right, it doesn’t matter. In that case, working outside, enjoying the beauty of the green and purple and orange and pink and whatever other colors manage to punctuate my space, matters as much as anything does.

And anyway, I have to do something with my time, so foolish or not, I might as well be working outside. At least I’m not starting wars or gunrunning or selling drugs or anything else that would mess with my serenity. (So far, the only thing that’s messed with my serenity was going through the door yesterday, and it’s impossible to live in a house without ever going through a door.)

Writing about my yard also seems foolish, but then, it’s what I do (at the moment, anyway). I write and I garden.

Small talk.

At least I’m not writing about the weather. Oh, wait. I do write about the weather, too. Speaking of which, the high today will be close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the low tomorrow night will be near freezing. Yikes.

As for today’s gardening chores, I planted the flowers I bought the other day, pulled weeds, searched for signs of seeds sprouting (found some!).

And I found a home for the bamboo with a friend of a friend, assuming it survives these temperature variances. I decided it was too much of a responsibility to try to keep the plant alive and at the same time try to keep its destructive powers under control. I have enough to deal with in my yard as it is.

As you can see, futile or not, here I am, back to gardening and gardening talk.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Cannibalism in the Garden

I had a productive but exhausting day, and I didn’t even get everything done that I wanted. I watered my plants — lawns, bushes, flowers. While doing that, I dug weeds. Afterward, I planted new snapdragons and destroyed older ones, though I didn’t mean to destroy the pretty flowers.

The snapdragons I planted last year were sold as annuals, but a couple of clumps came up again this year. The problem that I tried to rectify was that the clumps were so close they were almost on top of each other, and I thought they needed room to grow. I reached between the two clumps — one red and one pink — and definitely felt a division. So I tried to dig up the red clump, and both clumps came up. It turned out they had a single root. I didn’t know that was possible — I’d presumed that each color would have its own root system.

Since the flowers were out of the ground and would have to be replanted anyway, I went ahead and divided the root. I hope it’s early enough in the season that the roots will reestablish themselves. I gave them plenty of water, hoping that will help.

While I was outside, my neighbor brought me a bamboo plant she was going to throw away. It was a houseplant, and I wasn’t sure if it would survive in my yard, but I talked to someone recently who had some bamboo growing wild in the alley behind their house, so I thought I’d take a chance. The poor plant was tall and limp (since she was going to throw it away, she hadn’t watered it for a while), so I planted it, mulched it, and staked it.

The stake is a four-foot bamboo stake, which amuses me. It seems rather . . . cannibalistic. Sort of like the Silence of the Bamboo. Will the newly planted bamboo recoil in horror at being planted next to a dead stick of its own species? Or will it feel comfortable knowing it was being supported by its own kind?

I’m being factious, of course. Plants don’t have that sort of mental capacity, at least I don’t think they do. And anyway, the deed — cannibalistic or not — has been done. Now it’s a matter of waiting to see what will happen. The way I figure, either the bamboo will die or it will take over. I was going to plant it in a buried pot since that’s one way of keeping the bamboo from spreading, but I want it to spread a little, and supposedly, the invasion is easy enough to control if you cut back the new baby shoots in the spring. While researching bamboo after the fact (the fact of planting, that is), I learned that bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants — some species can grow thirty-five inches in a day and get 100 feet tall. Yikes! If this plant takes hold, maybe I’ll have to get a pet panda.

Yeah, right. As if I don’t have enough to do now!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Attracting Flowers

I recently read a book claiming that the secret of the universe, the power of the universe, is attraction, so you’re supposed to think positive thoughts because what you think about is what you attract.

I don’t believe that is true. The way I understand it, the power of the universe (if there is such a thing) comes not from attraction but from the energy created between attraction and aversion, push and pull, yin and yang.

Nor do I believe in the power of positive thinking because of its corollary — that if bad things happen to you, it’s your fault because you attracted them. The truth is, sometimes bad things happen for no reason. Besides, in the push/pull of the universe, “positive” and “negative” don’t mean good and bad. They seem to be arbitrary names attached to the way ions are charged. And in the real universe, not the universe of positive thinkers, two like charges repel, two unlike charges attract.

Sometimes, of course, in our own lives, what we think about is what we attract. Look at me, for example. What I’ve been thinking about lately, almost to the exclusion of anything else, is my garden and plants and flowers. And guess what? Today I attracted an abundance of flowers! The power of positive thinking? Perhaps, but the truth is, I went out and bought the plant starters, though that makes them no less mine than those that are already growing in my garden. (Which raises the issue of whether, in fact, the flowers that grow in my yard belong to me. They could just as well belong to themselves, or to the universe, or anyone who stops by to look at my yard.)

The purple and pink petunias will be going in various containers. Despite their less-than-optimal appearance, they should grow up to be beautiful.

The marigolds will be planted with the cherry tomatoes (when I figure out where to plant the tomatoes.)

And the assortment of purple flowers is a hanging basket. Because of the wind that’s coming tonight and the possibility of a storm tomorrow, the basket is temporarily an on-the-ground basket.

It’s too hot to plant today — 95 degrees Fahrenheit! Tomorrow will be a bit cooler, and I won’t spend the morning coolness buying more flowers, so I’m hoping to be able to get these flowers planted so that they can attract more flowers.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Roofs

I’m taking care of a house for a friend who is out of the country, and the winds around here have been sending some of his shingles flying to who knows where. Because of the need to find a roofer, I’ve been checking with people to see if they know of anyone to contact. So far, all I’ve heard is horror stories, not about roofers, but about roofs. Apparently, the cost of building supplies has gone up way more than the inflation rate of other products. In fact, if I were to build my garage now rather than two-and-a-half years ago, the roof for my garage would cost more than I paid for the whole thing. Ouch.

One neighbor, who has a beautiful roof that looks almost new, had to fight with his insurance company because they wanted him to replace it at his expense. Apparently, the insurers looked on Google maps to inspect the roof, and since his roofing material is no longer being made (because it lasts — his roof is actually 30 years old) they said it needs to be replaced. Yikes!

He finally got it straightened out, but he is so not happy about his insurance company using Google to check on the condition of his roof.

I can see insurers using Google maps to look at the roofs they’ve insured to see which ones they might need to physically inspect, but to simply use those images to determine whose roofs need to be replaced, seems lazy at best, fraudulent at worst.

Luckily, it’s not my roof that I’m having to deal with. (And anyway, I think my insurance company already has photos of my roof from when they came to inspect a couple of years ago.)

Luckily, too, it’s not my decision what to do with the roof on the house I’m taking care of. Luckily, I don’t have to do the work to replace it. And luckiest of all, (considering the estimate I got for my friend’s roof), I don’t have to pay for it!

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.