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.

Today’s Treasure

The first California poppy of the season!

One poppy does not make a poppy field, but it’s a start, right? I never particularly liked these small poppies, having grown up with the large red floppy-petaled poppies, but after my visit several years ago to the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, I developed a fondness for the smaller flower. In massive numbers, they look like a sunset fallen to earth, and oh, it sure was something to see.

I won’t be able to duplicate those fields of color, of course, but since the plants seem to do well here (and no wonder, the two climates — the high prairie of Colorado and the high desert of California — are similar) I should be able to create small patches of a blooming sunset.

But that’s for the future. Today is about enjoying the first poppy of the season as well as the first dwarf snapdragon, another of the seeds in the wildflower mix I planted last December. When they say dwarf, they mean it. These flowers are tiny — no bigger than a bee (hence the rather blurry photo). If they weren’t part of the mixture, I wouldn’t have been interested in planting such small flowers. They don’t really add much color to the yard, but since they are an annual, it doesn’t really matter. I’ll enjoy them this year, assuming, of course, I can see them.

The first bellflowers, another flower from the wildflower mix, have also bloomed. Not as big as a poppy. Not as small as a dwarf snapdragon. But so pretty. Maybe I could do a whole patch of these, too.

This ice plant wasn’t part of the wildflower mix; it was something I bought last year just because I liked the name. (Supposedly, it’s called an ice plant because it shimmers like ice.)

As if being able to see all these flowers poke their pretty faces up to the sun isn’t treat enough, today a friend stopped by to take a tour of my yard. I enjoyed showing the things I have done, the things my contractor did, and the things nature did. Somehow, it all works together to make something special. She’s been watching my garden take hold over the years, so it was fun seeing it through her eyes.

The yard was especially pretty today. I’d mowed this morning, so the lawn was nicely manicured, and the larkspur were at their peak. It won’t be long before the larkspur grows too tall and top heavy, so it would behoove me to get garden stakes if I don’t want a leaning garden. (That happened last year. The winds caused the plants to grow slantwise.)

So, those are the treasures of this day. I can hardly wait to see what treasures tomorrow will bring.

***

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

Do the Job in Front of You

I’m reading a science fiction book about people being able to step from this Earth into multiple other Earths, as if all possible Earths were stacked together like a deck of cards, and people could go from one to another.

At first, it was kids who found a way to step, and suddenly, kids all over the world were disappearing. The cops didn’t know what was going on. Terrorists? Aliens? One young cop asked the sergeant-in-charge what he was supposed to do, and the sergeant relied, “Do the job in front of you.”

It’s funny how in a story about strangeness, such an innocuous remark should have caught my attention, but it seems to be good advice no matter what. For example, landscaping a yard and creating garden spots in that yard can be rather overwhelming. It’s not something that can be done in a season or even two or three. I’m starting my fourth season, if I counted accurately, and despite how nice some parts of the yard are, other parts are still quite wild and weed-infested.

I’ve never had much patience for such long projects — I’m more of a do-it-and-get-it-done sort of person. Or at least I was. Apparently, I am now someone who can embark on a project that will never be finished. Almost by definition, a garden is always in progress. Volunteer plants show up. Long-standing plants die. Weeds take over certain areas. The only way to deal with such a long-term, unending project, is to do the job in front of you.

This change in me, from wanting things to be done to being able to deal with things that never are done, is a holdover from grief. Grief is one of those things that are never finished, though oddly, grief comes about because a loved one is finished — finished with their life here on Earth. But for those left behind, it’s never finished. At the beginning, especially, it seems impossible. Not only are you going through the most horrendous pain and most confusing time of your life, you are faced with a never-ending list of end-of-life chores. A person who dies doesn’t just disappear. The body has to be dealt with. Their things have to be dealt with. The government has to be informed and dealt with. Banks have to be dealt with. The only way to get through all that is to do the job in front of you.

It’s the same way with writing a book — during the course of the months and sometimes years that it takes to complete a novel, there are thousands of decisions to be made. Some people can sit down and simply write, without a plan, without agonizing over every detail, but for others, writing is the details. And the way to write for those people is to do the job in front of them, whether a paragraph, a page, a chapter.

I suppose life is the same way. I tend to try to look into my future, to see what I can do now to prevent some possible effects of old age, but in the end, no amount of projection will protect me (or anyone) from the vagaries of life. All any of us can do is the job in front of us, and the job — the life job — is to live the best we can today.

Luckily, we are all (or at least I think we all are) dealing with a single Earth, which makes things just a bit easier to do the job in front of us.

***

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.

Tiptoe Through the Larkspur

Admittedly, “tiptoe through the larkspur” doesn’t have the same resonance as “tiptoe through the tulips,” but it has the benefit of being the truth of the day. I’ve tiptoed through my tulips, too, in an effort to pull up weeds, but the tulips are long gone, and the larkspur are here now.

(I just looked up “Tiptoe through the Tulips” and it turns out that the song was originally sung — and sung as the romantic song it was written to be — in 1929. Amazing the things one can learn with just a few keyboard strokes.)

It was a lot easier preparing a bed for seeding when there were no existing plants I wanted to keep. All I had to do was dig up the entire area, with no care to the weeds I was trampling. As careful as I tried to be today, I ended up stomping on some larkspur and one poor lily when I tried to weed at the back of the garden area. Ironically, the more careful I was, the more off-balance I got, and the more plants I trampled.

I need to keep the newly planted areas as moist as possible for the next couple of weeks, and if the seeds don’t sprout, I’ll buy bedding plants. I will buy bedding plants, anyway. I have planters to fill as well as areas that could use some ready-grown plants.

In keeping with the irony of this morning’s “tiptoeing,” the air was utterly still all the time I was out there weeding and digging and hoeing, but as soon as I started to toss the seeds onto the prepared ground, a gust of wind blew through my yard. Who knows where that handful of seeds will end up! Luckily, I have plenty more seeds. If I don’t have much luck this spring, I’ll plant the rest next winter, along with some columbine. I’ve never had luck with columbines, either, but I just learned they are a seed that seems to do well with winter planting. And not only are they perennials, but they reseed themselves. I can always use another plant that can take care of itself. But that’s a project for another day.

Today was about tiptoeing through the larkspur to fill in empty spots and to add more seeds to my wildflower garden. And that I did.

***

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.

Poor Air Quality. Eek.

Last night I was supposed to meet a neighbor so I could dig up some of her flowers, but the meet didn’t surprise me that it didn’t happen — that’s simply how the entire day had gone.

I’d waited all morning for my mechanic to call to let me know he was on the way to pick up my car to fix the brakes. (Neither of us want me to be driving without brakes.) He finally called in the afternoon to tell me he had an emergency and would have to reschedule.

I’d waited for the appliance repair people to call me back about fixing my refrigerator, and they still haven’t. I talked to a woman who has been waiting for weeks for those same people to fix her stove, so I don’t expect my refrigerator to be fixed any time soon. I do have a couple of other numbers to call, but they are from way out of the area, so a service call would be prohibitively expensive, assuming they’d come at all. Since it looks as if this will be a long term wait, as is anything that needs to be done in this area, I’m working on clearing out my refrigerator. Even though most of the food left should be okay in 50 degrees (such as salad ingredients and duck eggs), I’d still like to make it as easy as possible if a repair person ever shows up. And to make it easy for me this summer if no one shows up. (The refrigerator works fine in the winter for some reason.)

And now I’m waiting for my gazebo to be finished, though who knows on that one. As I said, it’s very difficult getting anything done around here.

So, that’s why I wasn’t surprised my date with the neighbor’s plants didn’t materialize. It was just one of those days. To be honest, I’m okay with that. Yesterday was a terrible day to be outside with three different weather advisories going at the same time. Two were for wind and fire danger. One was for poor air quality. And yikes, was the air bad!

The accompanying photo was taken on what was actually a cloudless afternoon. Those muddy-looking clouds are smoke from the New Mexico fire being driven through here by the wind. Luckily, the air quality today isn’t nearly as bad, it so I was able to spend some time outside. And to give my lungs a rest.

The wind, unfortunately, was still terrible.

Tomorrow should be an even better day for air quality, so I’m planning on planting seeds. I’d already planted some, but with the wind and the low humidity (single digits) we’ve been having lately, it’s been almost impossible to keep the ground moist enough for seeds to sprout. Still, I figure if I do a small enough area, I should be able to keep it watered until the seedlings come up. Assuming, of course, the air remains clear enough for me to be outside, and the winds don’t blow away the seeds and their soil covering.

***

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

Waiting

This was one of those hurry-up-and-wait days. My mechanic was supposed to call in the morning and let me know when he could come and get my car, and he didn’t. I’d called and left a message with an appliance service about getting my refrigerator fixed (it doesn’t get below 50 degrees), and they didn’t return the call. I also waited for answers to texts that didn’t come.

So, in the early afternoon, I grabbed my phone and headed out to an Art Guild meeting. Because of my work schedule (and because of quarantines and other things), I haven’t been able to attend a meeting in more than a year, though I did supply desserts for various functions put on the group. It was good visiting with these people again; it was almost as if all these months hadn’t passed since I’d seen most of them.

One of the members is the woman I bought my house from. She mentioned that she’d talked to my across-the-alley neighbor, and the neighbor had told her how beautiful my yard is getting. So the guild decided to meet in my yard next month. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. And the die was cast. I’m not really set up for hosting such a meeting, though luckily, I should have enough chairs through the benevolence of a relative who’d just sent me four kitchen/dining chairs.

One of the things they mentioned wanting to see (and use) was my gazebo, and they didn’t seem to mind when I told them it had no roof.

As soon as I got home, I contacted my contractor to see if he could get the gazebo finished in time. I expected to have to wait to hear from him since this is a day of waiting, but it wasn’t too long before he responded, “Let’s make it happen.”

So now I have to wait for him to make it happen (and hope that he gets it done in time). I also have to wait for a call from the appliance people. (Luckily, I don’t keep much in the refrigerator, and most of what is there won’t go bad even in the relative warmth.) But I don’t have to worry about waiting for a call from my mechanic, at least not until next week. He finally called and said he’d got stuck in an emergency, and so we rescheduled for next week.

It’s kind of ironic — I hadn’t really planned to go the meeting. I figured since I haven’t attended all this time, another month wouldn’t make a difference, but I got tired of people not responding to me, so I decided to stop waiting around. It turned out to be the right thing, being around people who did respond to me, except for the part about meeting here next month. Oh, the pressure!

It will be interesting to see what the yard looks like next month since most of what is blooming now will be gone by then. (Flowers such as the wild yellow roses that showed their faces today bloom quickly and disappear as quickly.) The yard should still look nice, with or without blooms, with or without a gazebo.

And, with or without a working refrigerator, I’ll figure out something for refreshments.

***

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.

Gardening and Aloneness

A friend called this morning and asked if I was outside taking care of my “baby.” Meaning my yard. I had to laugh because I really was taking care of things in the yard. The only reason I had my phone with me was to get photos of the larkspur and the roses that had begun to bloom prolifically.

Obviously, my focus on the garden and lawn hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, the growing beauty of my yard is rather a conversation piece, something to share with neighbors who get the fun of seeing what’s developing without having to do the work. Until recently, I’d never realized that about gardening — that it wasn’t a lonely project but something to share. In fact, a neighbor a few houses away is going to be sharing her garden with me. Literally sharing. Tomorrow evening, I’ll be heading over there to dig up some of her prolific plants to transplant in my yard. She said, “I love sharing plants. I can’t wait to share some yard pretties with you.”

And I can’t wait to get them.

Although I’m surprised that I’ve taken gardening to heart, since I’ve never really been all that much into gardening, I’m not surprised that I’ve become focused on something outside of myself.

When you live alone, you need something to keep you going, something outside of yourself to expand your reach, something . . . more. I have friends and neighbors, a couple of siblings I am in occasional contact with, and a job that occupies my attention a few hours every week, but the rest of the time, when I am inside and the door is shut, there is only me.

I will eventually get back to fiction writing, but for now blogging is all I can handle. Any long writing project, such as a novel, seems incredibly lonely. I spend too much time in my own mind as it is. Admittedly, when you write a novel, you people your mind with various characters, but that simply masks the truth of being alone.

Since I need something more than just me alone, it might as well be gardening. At worst, babying a yard is a lot of work. At best, it’s a joint creative endeavor between me and nature and a couple of neighbors. And in the middle, between best and worst, is a whole lot of yard pretties!

***

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.

Gardening and Life

Last year, I planted black and white petunias in large pots and when winter came, I just left the dead plants where they were. I didn’t see any reason to clear them out because they’d be covered with snow anyway. Today, when I cleaned out the desiccated plants, I noticed some seedlings in the pot. They didn’t seem like weeds, though I’m sure some weed seedlings have smooth, rounded leaves like these little guys.

I looked online for images of petunia seedlings, on the off chance that the flowers had reseeded themselves, and sure enough, those seedlings are petunias. I didn’t know that they could reseed themselves. I’m considering letting them get large enough to transplant, and then plant them in the garden to see if they would become a permanent fixture. Or not. These petunias were black and white, and I’m not sure how much color they would add. But I’ll wait and see how I feel when it gets to that point.

One of my future flower projects will be to start cultivating self-seeders. I like when flowers come up on their own without my intervention because I don’t have luck with seeds, though it does look as if some of the California poppies are starting to come up. (So far, those are the only seeds from the wildflower mix that I planted last fall that’s making an appearance.) Come to think of it, I’ve planted several varieties of flowers that are supposed to reseed themselves, but the only one I’ve ever had any luck with is larkspur, so much so, that I have many areas where larkspur is growing.

As my yard takes hold, when the bushes and perennials are established so I know what areas to focus on, that will be the time to “fine tune” the garden, to fill in weedy spots and to find out what plants will do well here in this area of weather extremes. That could still be years. My raised garden hasn’t been built yet, so when that’s done, it will be a whole summer’s project just getting it filled in and planted. And there is a long strip of weeds and grass going toward the alley that I’m not going to worry about until the back pathway is finished.

It’s interesting to me that I have become so fixated on my yard and gardening. It’s never been something I’ve been interested in, though I have always loved seeing other people’s beautiful yards. The only times I ever tried gardening was when I was about seven or eight and my mother gave me a small garden spot to play with. I planted sweet williams, and some even came up, but I never repeated the experience until Jeff and I tried to garden. The only thing we could grow were lilacs and Siberian elms. Everything else, absolutely everything else except weeds, including several six-foot trees, disappeared into the jaws of grasshoppers. Voracious creatures! I get scared every time I see one in my yard now, but so far, they’ve been courteous eaters, only nibbling on a few things and leaving the rest alone.

And now, here I am, spending hours every day outside, grooming my yard.

Life does strange things to all of us.

***

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.

Surprises. Mostly Pleasant.

I made good use of my day off and mowed the grass. The hardest part of using any bit of machinery seems to be cleaning the machine after use, and this mower, because it’s a mulcher that chops up the grass after it’s cut, seems to get “gunkier” than most. I never can clean all the grass gunk (for lack of a better word, and believe me, I’ve been on Google looking) off the underside of the mower. The second hardest part is emptying the grass catcher, mostly because it has to be done so frequently. This grass grows fast, and it is densely packed, so there is a lot of it. I’ve been using the ensuing mulch for mulch, so in some cases, I had to pull weeds before I dumped the clippings. The easiest part of mowing is . . . mowing. Though even that isn’t as easy as I’d hoped. Still, the whole project doesn’t take long, just a little more than an hour, so it’s not all that onerous.

After I finished with the grass, I watered the bushes and other plants that didn’t get a drink yesterday, then I planted hollyhocks. I have a lot of seeds grown from last year’s hollyhocks, and even though I planted them in the fall as my neighbor (who gifted me the original hollyhock seeds) suggested, none came up. A few minutes online gave me a different method — to soak the seeds overnight, then just lay them on the ground without covering them with dirt. Apparently, they need the light to germinate. So that’s what I did. I have plenty more seeds to experiment with if these don’t sprout.

When these tasks were finished, I roamed my pathways, looking for anything new, and I found some nice surprises.

The first rose of the season! I have never been able to find out what kind of roses these are. A rather lengthy bout of online searching didn’t produce any definitive results, though some people call this five-petaled flower a simple rose, a prairie rose, a shrub rose, a native rose, a wild rose, or any number of other names. All I know for sure is that it is some type of rose.

This allium grew among the lilacs. I didn’t even know it was there since it had never bloomed before. It’s so pretty with the purple allium, the green leaves, and the white lilacs.

The honeysuckle is in bloom, too. This honeysuckle is an old one and has been here for many years, perhaps even decades. It’s a bush, not a vine as many honeysuckles are, including a few I planted a couple of years ago.

I was also surprised to see an iris blooming. Before the fence was built, I’d tried to transplant some of the irises that would be caged between my fence and the neighbor’s garage, but most of those transplants seem to have died. This is the first time an iris I planted actually flowered.

The only unpleasant surprise was a pile of dirt off to the side of one of my paths. I thought I’d somehow shoveled dirt onto the path when I dug up some weeds, but when I started to push the dirt back where it came from, I discovered the real culprit of the dastardly deed. Ants!! Red fire ants are building a home. Considering how vicious the bites are from those ants, I’m lucky I managed to remain bite-free. If they continue to deconstruct my landscaping, I’ll have to do something about them, but I really don’t want to. I’m one of those people who literally won’t hurt a fly, or any creature, for that matter, but I make an exception for any that hurt me.

Luckily, my surprises were mostly pleasant ones.

***

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

The Day is What the Day Is

I’ve finally become acclimated to the clock change we had to make because of daylight savings time, and the disorientation I felt because of the change has abated. Unfortunately, I’m dealing with disorientation again, though this time it’s confusion not about hours but about days.

My work schedule was abruptly changed this week after almost two years on basically the same schedule. Now, I work one day that I always did, one day that I sometimes did, and sometimes one day that I never did. (Did that confuse you? Now you know how I feel!) In addition to all that, my “weekend” was changed to the middle of the week.

I’m not complaining. It’s actually a good schedule for me, with more free days than working days, so I’m sure it will be easy to get used to the new routine. But until then, I am rather lost in time, never quite sure what day it is or what I am supposed to be doing on that day.

Even though I had to work today, I still managed to water my grass. Tomorrow, I will water the bushes and trees. So that’s good. It’s easy to know where I stand when it comes to my yard — if I watered the grass yesterday, then I don’t need to do it today Same with the bushes. (If that sounds like a lot of watering for this time of year, we’re going through a hot spell — 97 degrees Fahrenheit today — so I am on a summer watering schedule.)

Unfortunately, the rest of my life isn’t as easy to figure out. If I worked yesterday, does that mean I have today off? If I have today off, does that mean I work tomorrow? Eek.

Luckily, I have calendars, both paper and electronic, to help keep me oriented. Mostly, though, I only need to keep track of what calendar day it is so I know whether to go to work, whether the library is open, whether . . . You get the idea. In the long run — or the short run — it doesn’t matter if today feels like Saturday or Sunday or Monday. The day is what the day is. And today is the day the first larkspur decided to bloom!

***

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.