Stay Warm!

No wonder autumn seems like such a short season — it is. Summer borrows from fall to extend the torrid weather a couple of more weeks, and winter butts in on the back end, shoving the temperate season out of the way so it can get in a few early weeks of cold and snow.

According to the calendar, winter doesn’t arrive for another 32 days, but according to the weather, winter is already here. The high yesterday was about 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and although we only got an inch of snow yesterday, there was enough ground cover to warrant sweeping. And then, to clinch the winter encroachment, the temperatures last night got down close to zero, with a minus 7 windchill factor.

I was going to mention how cold it felt, but to tell the truth (as I try to do), I barely noticed the chill since I was outside only long enough to sweep off my front ramp and to check my mailbox. The rest of the time I was snuggled inside where it was warm.

Luckily, it warmed up to a sizzling 41 degrees today, so I was able to go to the library and replenish my stock of books. One of the books was on hold for me and I was about thirtieth in line (though admittedly, most of those people were from other libraries, and like most libraries, this one is jealous of its new books and holds on to them for about three months before sending them elsewhere), but sometimes being a good patron has its perks. Since this was Saturday afternoon, and the library doesn’t open again until Monday afternoon, the librarian let me check out the book ahead of the next person in line. Although she didn’t stipulate that she wanted it back early, she knows she’ll get it back quickly. Now that gardening season is over, what else do I have to do with my time but read?

Well, if it warms up into the fifties next week as the weather forecasters are anticipating, I will have to mow my lawn one last time, and probably even water since a scant inch of fluffy snow doesn’t amount to much moisture. (The average snow-to-liquid ratio in the USA is about 13 to 1, yet in the dry west, it’s closer to 50 to 1, so that 1” of snow we got yesterday is about .02 inches of moisture, a far cry from the .50 inches per week my grass needs in the winter. To get that .50 inches of moisture, we’d need 25 inches of the light powdery kind snow we often get. No thank you!)

Luckily (I think) when the frost comes and stays around without warming up during the day, I won’t have to worry about the grass. And who knows, I might eventually have to give up on the lawn altogether. Now that the Bermuda grass has gone dormant, leaving a wide perimeter of brown grass around the green, I can see how much that weedy grass has encroached in only a year.

But this wasn’t supposed to be a discussion of my lawn. It was supposed to be more about my visit to the library and how I knew just about everyone who was there today. Apparently, I wasn’t the only reader who had finished all their books in record time and needed to restock. It made for a nice social occasion, though actually, I’ve been plenty “socialized” lately. After last week where I agonized about attending a luncheon meeting only to have it postponed, this week I simply went without a second thought. Then yesterday, a couple of friends came to tea, and today, before the library visit, I talked to another friend. Whew! As a hermit, I am somewhat of a failure, though I still do spend the bulk of my time alone.

And, since I’m updating you on various matters — weather, library, grass, socialization — there’s one more thing. I mentioned that I updated my operating system to Windows 11. It also seems to have updated MS Word at least to a certain extent. Although this version is much the same as my previous one, there are small differences that keep me on my toes.

I just noticed that the heat keeps cycling on, so whatever warmth the sun brought seems to have dissipated, and we will soon be down to tonight’s low of 11 degrees. Yikes.

Stay warm!

***

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.

Charming Weather

It’s an interesting new experience not spending two to four hours working outside every day. It got to be so much of a habit that I just automatically went out in the morning and stayed until whatever tasks I’d set myself were finished. This autumn, I’d been spending closer to four hours since the weather was so charming. “Charming” is not a word I would have ever thought to use for weather; it just showed up. And no wonder: the weather has been so pleasant and likeable that these days have charmed me. I was glad to have excuses to spend so much time outside — cleaning up gardens in preparation for planting wildflowers this winter, dividing and transplanting the prolific New England asters, and planting a few indulgences such as lily bulbs and a couple of plants.

I tried once before to plant Russian sage, a plant that bees seem to love, but that one died, and it looks as if the one I just planted wants to go the same way. Oh, well, what will be will be. I certainly learned that with my lawn — no matter what I did, the Bermuda grass encroached, and now I have large brown swaths of dormant Bermuda grass edging the bright green. Even worse, no matter what I did, some of my lawn desiccated in the summer. I’ll be interested to see what happens next spring with the grass areas that became heat stressed. Some patches seem to be dead, but in other places, a few green blades are laboriously making their way back.

I blamed myself for the demise of the grass, though I don’t see what I could have done differently. Extensive research finally gave me the answer — when temperatures exceed 95 degrees, cool season grasses go dormant. Over 100 degrees, the grasses die. To keep the grass alive, I should have misted the lawn a couple of hours every afternoon. I’m not sure I’d have done that, but perhaps if the grass comes back, I’ll think of something. The greenest area in my yard gets a lot of shade during the day, so perhaps I’d find a way to shade the areas that are in full sun from morning to night. Maybe umbrellas to shade those areas. Or maybe I’ll just wait to see what happens. It does look as if some wildflower seeds took root, so that might be a solution — just let them take over. As long as the area is mowable and not overrun by the so very aggressive Bermuda grass, I’m not sure I care.

As you can see, even without a lot of outside work to do, I still spend time thinking about my yard and planning for next year.

This “charming” weather will be coming to an end soon, but after the coming cold spell, I’m sure there will be plenty of work to do, such as cleaning up all the leaves that have yet to fall from my neighbors’ trees and clearing out the final garden. That garden still has a few struggling flowers that I am loath to dig up, but I am sure the coming freeze (maybe even snow!) will put an end to any blooms.

Meantime, I’m avoiding garden withdrawal by taking small walks. It’s funny to me that I spent years taking long aimless walks, but now I have a hard time walking just to walk. It seems as if I need a reason, so I’ve been going to the library more often. (Have to fill all those empty hours somehow!)

I hope you’re having lovely weather, too, and that the cold front we’re expecting doesn’t adversely affect you.

***

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.

I’m Doing Well

If you’re one of those who has been worried about my virtual disappearance, worry no more. I’m doing well. I haven’t disappeared in real life, just online life. I still manage to blog once or twice a week, but I don’t go through the rigmarole of posting the link on Facebook. It got to be too much, not just writing every day, but reblogging to another blog as well as posting the photo on a third blog and reblogging that to the reblogged blog just so I can bypass FB’s unfairly punitive ways to post my blog link on the site.

I feel good about not blogging every day, and I feel even better about boycotting FB, though I do feel bad about not keeping up with grief friends, both online and off. I just can’t handle secondhand grief anymore. (A friend recently died, and I dread seeing her husband, also a friend, when he returns to this country. It’s not exactly kind or generous or sensitive, but it’s the truth of me right now.)

I’ve also been doing well with my yard — the leaves from my neighbors’ trees will start falling any day (perhaps even later today because of the high winds we’re dealing with), but until it’s time to rake those leaves or to water the grass again, there’s nothing for me to do outside. What a change! Admittedly, I earned the change. I’ve been spending three or four hours every day digging up Bermuda grass, weeds, and dead annuals in preparation for winter wildflower sowing. I also spent several of those days digging up, hacking apart, and replanting the New England aster. If even half of them survive the winter, I’ll be having to deal with maybe a hundred plants next fall. But that’s not for another year.

I’ve also been doing well with cleaning house — everything is as spotless as I can get it, so there’s no inside chore niggling at me, either.

So, with nothing to do today except read and relax and fix a couple of meals, I’m doing really well!

And speaking of “well,” Here’s a well of a different sort. It’s funny, but I wished for a wishing well, and look! I got my wish! I had to fix the roof that was falling apart, and I shingled it with leftover shingles, and now — oh, what a beauty!

I threw wishes into the well for your wellbeing, so I hope it works and that you’re doing well, too.

***

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.

Filling My Life

I can see why I had such a hard time trying to find topics when I was blogging every day — there are no great emotions in my life as when I was dealing with grief, no great adventures as when I was hiking or road tripping, no wonderful new experiences as when I bought my house. There’s just me going about what has become my normal life, which mostly entails spending two or three hours working on my yard and the rest of the time reading or relaxing and trying to recuperate from the labor.

To be honest, I’m not sure this is a fulfilling life, but to be even more honest, I’m not sure I care. It takes a lot of energy to search for ways of being fulfilled and then to follow through, and I have never been a high-energy person. I do have a part-time job looking after an older woman, so that’s something anyone would consider worthwhile. Outside of that job, however, my only responsibility is looking after myself, and that should be at least as worthwhile as looking after someone else, right? I’m not sure why, but we seldom think we are as important as others. When we’re coupled, it’s easy to feel as if we’re leading a worthwhile and fulfilling life because of its “we” centeredness. Being “me” centered is considered selfish, but when “me” is all there is, then by definition, we have to give ourselves as much validity as when we were a “we.”

Now that I think of it, I spend more time looking after my yard than I spend looking after myself. I’m pretty easy to care for — make sure I have plenty of books, fix relatively healthy meals, try to put myself to bed at a reasonable hour. My yard, on the other hand, is rather demanding. Because of the lack of natural moisture in the area (due to a curse put on this land by the survivors of the Sand Creek massacre, I’ve been told, and even a subsequent blessing ceremony by more current members of that tribe couldn’t remove the curse) I have to spend time watering my grass and plants. I gave up weeding my gardens in the summer because it was impossible to keep on top of the growth (the weeds around here thrive even without much moisture), so I am having to do now what I didn’t do then. I’m also extending my garden, bit by bit. (There is still a swath of my backyard that has never been cleared; the weeds and weedy grasses are so dense it takes an hour just to clear a few feet.)

Although such work might not be compelling to others, it is to me, especially this time of year when the cleared gardens stay cleared, and the fall flowers bring intense color to the yard. It’s also fulfilling work in a creative sort of way, with the yard as a canvas I paint with plants. Although the heat-stressed grass hasn’t yet greened up, at least, with the cooler temperatures, I don’t have to worry about additional damage the sun can do, and there’s always hope for the spring.

Actually, hope isn’t just for spring. When there aren’t big emotions, big adventures, big experiences to fill my life, there’s always hope for something — a chance visit with a friend, a few words that make me think, a new flower to plant or to enjoy, a book that keeps me interested. Even without hope of . . . something . . . there’s still today and my gratitude that even though there might not be a lot to bring drama to my life or heighten my emotions (and hence give me blog topics), there’s nothing to torment me, either.

***

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.

Autumn Gardening

I’ve spent a lot of time working out in my yard this year, two or three hours most days, and to my surprise, I’ve discovered that the past couple of weeks, ever since autumn arrived, have been the most enjoyable. The weather has been nice — still and warm, without the strong winds of spring or the scorching temperatures of summer. But more than that, whatever work I have done stays done. In the summer, when I weeded, that wasn’t the end. More weeds came, and the weedy grasses came back with a vengeance. (Admittedly, “vengeance” is a human reaction, not a plant one, but the way those grasses grew it seemed vengeful.) But this fall? Whatever flower bed I cleared out stayed cleared out, and I can actually see an end to these tasks for the year. At the same time, I feel as if I am preparing the soil for new hopes and dreams to flower next year.

Even better, with the weeds and undergrowth cleared out, the bare spots in my garden are obvious, so I know where to plant new flowers. Of course, come spring, those bare spots could fill up with self-planted flowers since I let so many of them go to seed, but for now, I feel as if I have a bit of control. In the summer, the weeds, the sun, and the aggressive plants are in control, but for now, life is taunting me by letting me feel as if I am in charge. Still, whoever or whatever is in charge, it feels good to stroll around my property or sit on a bench and see all that has been accomplished.

Best of all, the autumn flowers are gorgeous, giving my yard a park-like appearance.

***

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 Spring in My Step

My step has lost its bounce, as if the balls of my feet have become underinflated. At best, I tend to plod; at worst, I lumber. Of course, a lot of this has to do with tiring myself — and especially my legs — working in the yard, but there is so much to do out there before winter that I tend to work more than I should. Still, I thought I’d check online to see what — if anything — would help put the spring back in my step.

I had to laugh. The first few articles I found had advice like think positively, eat right, drink right, work in a garden, go shopping, visit with friends, have some fun. Good advice, but not exactly what I was looking for. I did eventually find some exercises to help improve strength and balance in the lower body and enable elderly people to walk better and be safer.

After more research, I came across an interesting explanation of why older people lose the spring in their step: a difference in joint and muscle redistribution. For younger people, a normal gait is powered 1/3 by the hips, 1/3 by the knees, and 1/3 by the ankles. For elderly folks, the gait distribution is 3/4 by the hips, 1/8 by the knees and 1/8 by the ankles.

Because of this, you’d think that ankle and knee strengthening exercise would help redistribute the propulsion ratios, but although those exercises are valuable and help with many problems, exercise itself does little to put the spring back in a person’s walking gait. I can attest to that — I am doing various ankle/hip/knee exercises, and although they are helping my knees, they aren’t doing much to help with the spring in my step.

What does help? Paying attention to your gait when walking, standing tall as if peeping over a crowd, and actively engaging the ankles — land on the heel, roll the foot to the ball of the foot and push off.

Of course, as with everything I research, there is controversy. Some physical therapists and exercise trainers say this is entirely the wrong way to walk, and each offers their advice to walk correctly, such as landing on the outside of the heel and slightly move it inward to land flat. Or don’t land on the heel at all but walk toe to heel. Or land on the ball of the foot and use your hips to propel you forward because your hips are the bigger muscles and hence have more power. (I wonder if this is why elderly use their hips more than ankles or knees — since it is the biggest muscle group, it would retain muscle mass longer than other muscles.)

To me, the correct way of walking is whatever is most comfortable, least painful, and lightest on the feet, so I suppose almost all ways of walking are correct for someone.

There’s not much I can do about trying to propel myself forward when I’ve spent myself — I’m lucky to be able to move at all at those times — but I have noticed the rest of the time that if I pay attention and actively engage my ankles, I do seem to have more of a spring in my step.

***

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.

Gorgeous Autumn Day

I’ll bet you can’t guess what I did today! Aww, you guessed it. Where else would I be on such on gorgeous autumn day but out working in my yard? Of course, if you guessed blogging or being on the internet, that would have been a sure bet, too, because here I am. Or if you guessed reading, that too would have been a win because that’s how I will spend the rest of the day.

Hmm. Sounds as if I live too narrow a life. I might have to do something about that eventually to keep from the dreaded stagnation (dreaded by me, that is), but for now, there’s a lot of work to do, not just the usual maintenance, such as watering and mowing the grass and digging weeds, but also getting ready for late fall planting (lilies and wildflowers) and preparing for winter.

It seems as if summer was never-ending, but then, in just a snap of the fingers, it was over. I know it was a long, hot four months, but in retrospect, the whole summer was truncated. Except for the work I did, though, there wasn’t much to distinguish the days from one another. There seemed to be few summer flowers, and those that did come up, like the lilies and day lilies were swamped in wildflowers or weeds. Now, though, there is plenty of color! Zinnias. Amaranth. Chrysanthemums. New England Asters. Marigolds.

In another snap of the fingers, winter will be here, but I’m not going to think of that — I’ll just enjoy the lovely fall weather as long as it lasts. (Warm days, cool nights — what’s not to like?)

I wasn’t sure whether I should use the term “autumn” or “fall” for this post. I recently came across one of those USA-bashing comments intimating that the sophisticated British use the term autumn but the uncouth and simple Americans use “fall” (named because of the falling leaves). I certainly didn’t want to bring ridicule down on my head for using the wrong word, so I looked up the origin of both terms. It turns out that “fall” is not something you can lay at our American feet. Both words originated in Britain. Autumn was first used in the 1300s. Fall was first used in the 1500s. But the correct term for this season is (or at least it was before 1300) “harvest.”

Still, whatever the name for this season — fall or autumn or harvest — it certainly has been a pleasant and colorful (and exhausting) one for me.

***

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.

Uneasy

I wasn’t sure I wanted to post a blog today — I’m feeling uneasy and didn’t really want talk about it lest it seem as if I were complaining, though that wouldn’t have been my intention. Then I decided that this disinclination to “share” anything today wasn’t worth breaking a 1,087 daily blog streak, and anyway, I’ve often spoken of things that didn’t exactly show me in a good light.

(“Share” is in quotation marks because I have come to hate that word — it’s such a social networking cliché, but it’s the only one I’ve found that works in this particular context.)

To be honest, this uneasiness is not that big of a deal — I’m just feeling out of sorts and didn’t want to seem self-indulgent by writing about it. Since I couldn’t think of another topic that I haven’t done to death (I mean really, how many times can I write about grass?), and since I didn’t want to use such a feeble excuse as uneasiness to quit the daily blog routine, and since I’ve confessed to worse things, here I am.

Yesterday I went to a meeting of a guild I belong to, and maybe three times as many people showed up compared to what I’m used to. I was fine while I was there, but when I got home, I felt . . . not sad exactly, but definitely not happy. Just uneasy. I have never done well in groups, and this was the biggest group I’ve been in for more than two years, and apparently, it was more than I could handle.

I woke this morning in that same uneasy state, but since I didn’t have to work today, I went outside to continue digging up weedy grass. (Oops. I there is that “G” word, after all.) I had nothing else to do, and I figured the physical activity would help get me back to my normal stoic self. It didn’t. In fact, it made me wonder what the heck I’m doing all that work for. It seems silly, really — all that work and worry just for a bit of a lawn and a few flowers. But then I reminded myself I need a focus. It doesn’t matter how silly the focus is — it’s important to have something to concentrate on outside of myself to keep me from looking too deeply into myself or looking too closely at my life.

I’m okay living alone (and considering my reaction to yesterday’s meeting, I’m apparently more okay being alone than being around a lot of people), but if I look at the realities — growing old alone, having no one to do nothing with, having to rely so much on myself — it just seems too dang sad. So I try to focus on other things, no matter how silly they might seem. Like working in the yard.

This uneasiness will pass as moods generally do. If not, well, I’ll be back at my care-giving job tomorrow, and that for sure will make me think of something — or rather someone — besides myself.

***

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.

What a Horror!

I spent the morning digging Bermuda grass out of one of the half-circle flower beds along the front ramp. It seems as if I’ve done this same cleanup in this same garden several times before, and no wonder — I have. I’ve done the fall cleanup three years in a row, as well as pulling weeds at various times during the summer each of those years. I gave up a couple of months ago, and oh, my. What a horror! Thick grass with three- and four-foot stolons and me with bad knees.

It’s actually easier to dig up an entire bed than to dig around existing plants, but I keep hoping those existing plants — daylilies — will spread and multiply and take over the whole garden. So far, it hasn’t happened.

I’m considering doing something else next year — perhaps not plant anything and wait to see what comes up. Tulips will come up, I hope, and after they die back, I’m sure the larkspur will also come up. Around here, larkspur is a short-lived plant, so after I’ve cleared out the dead stalks, I’ve been planting other things to fill in the garden while the daylilies decide what they want to do.

Maybe it’s not that important to have flowers in the front all season. Maybe it’s more important to baby the daylilies and try to keep the garden free of grass for a year and see what happens. (I suppose I could buy a grass killer that’s made especially for flower gardens, but I hesitate to fill my yard with chemicals, and anyway, it’s almost impossible to kill Bermuda grass.)

A few days ago, I wrote about gardening being an all-encompassing creative endeavor, using mind, eyes, hands, heart, and body. It’s also very much a learning experience, which makes it a good project for me because above everything else, I love to learn.

And today’s lesson was all about Bermuda grass. I have a first-hand knowledge of the weed from my efforts to contain the grass the past couple of years, but there is still much I didn’t know. It turns out the scientific name for Bermuda grass is Cynodon dactylon, though it goes by many names besides Bermuda grass, such as quickgrass, twitch grass, and couch grass. It is a weed found all over the world, probably originating in sub-Saharan Africa or perhaps on islands in the western parts of the Indian Ocean. It’s called Bermuda grass because it was introduced to the USA via Bermuda. Although around here, Bermuda grass is used for lawns because of its tolerance for sun and heat, it is considered one of the world’s most invasive weeds, one moreover, that is almost impossible to get rid of.

So, despite having learned all that about my nemesis, it certainly doesn’t help me any in trying to get rid of it. That stuff is truly scary. Even though I have a weed barrier underneath the rocks around the house and my pathways, the Bermuda grass pokes it way to the sun. And if it can’t poke through the barrier, it will grow from far beneath the path and emerge along the edges, which makes it impossible to get rid of. Sure, I can dig it up, but because I can’t get to the origin of the root, it just grows back.

Eventually, I’m sure, I’ll have to make some sort of accommodation with the relentless stuff, but if I give up the fight, I’ll end up with a huge mess.

That brings me back to the beginning premise of this essay, and my musing about not planting anything in this particular garden and see if dedicating myself to the task of clearing out the weed will help. Actually, I’m sure it will — until next year when I go back to planting and watering that garden. Then, all the bits of roots and stolons and seeds and biological detritus that I couldn’t completely eradicate, will erupt into new plants, and I’ll be back where I started from.

Still, things do manage to grow despite the horror of the gardening world. In fact, speaking of larkspur as I did above, I found these two dainty flowers today.

***

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.

Mostly Flowers

This is a quickie post, mostly photos of my flowers that are blooming today because I’ve run out of time for anything more time consuming.

The weather was cool and still with bright blue skies, so I stayed outside working much longer than I should have. I cleaned weeds from around the edge of a garden so I was able to do much of it sitting, which helped protect my knees.

Besides spending too much time outside, I just got a text asking me to go in to work earlier, so here I am, in a hurry, so I’m showing off my photography skills instead of my writing skills.

I’m sure you’re just as glad to see photos instead of another essay about grass, though I won’t let you completely off the hook. As I was cleaning out the gardens on either side of my front ramp, I noticed a tangle of four-foot-long Bermuda grass stolons (above ground stems) beneath the ramp on the original sidewalk. I thought maybe the grass was growing out of the cracks, but it turned out that the grass on one side of the ramp was inching toward the other side and vice versa. Apparently, even grass itself thinks things are greener on the other side.

I’m still astonished by the growth of my New England asters this year. If anyone local wants any when it comes time to divide them, be sure to let me know.

Well, I’ve run out of time, so it’s off to work I go.

***

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.