House Anniversary

Four years ago today, I bought my house. Whoa! I had to stop and reread that sentence because . . . four years, really? The years slipped by so easily, it doesn’t seem possible that I’ve lived here for four years already.

I encountered a few weird instances, such as getting a water bill for 19,000 gallons of water (they said it couldn’t possibly be their new electronic meter that was off because those meters, like all electronic devices, always work perfectly. Yeah, right.) And there were a few scary instances, such as my homeowner’s insurance doubling after it had already almost doubled the year before. But for the most part, buying this house was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. It’s given me comfort and security, focus and confidence.

There’s still much for me to learn about owning a house, but little by little, I’m gaining the knowledge I need, or more specifically, I’m learning who to call to help me with anything that goes wrong. And I’m learning to garden and to take care of a yard. In fact, just this morning, my yard offered me the lovely gift of cheery yellow crocuses.

When I moved here, I had no idea how ideal this area would be for me. I came for the house, but I also found neighbors, friends, a library, a job, and so much more.

During all those years of being lost in grief after Jeff died, I held on to the hope of a something wonderful in my future because shouldn’t a supreme sorrow be balanced by at least a modicum of joy? And here it is, my something wonderful. My house. My home. For almost a decade, even though I had places to live, I always felt homeless. Jeff had been my home, and with him gone, I felt rootless. And now, I am putting down roots. Literal roots. Every time I plant something, I am both symbolically and actually putting down roots.

Being here gives me a sense of the ebb and flow of life. Not that I needed any reminders, considering how many people in my family have died the past decade or so, but still, I feel the flow of seasons. The life and death and rebirth of plants. And, unfortunately, the coming and going of friends. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve already lost friends due to moving, ill health, and even death.

I also feel the ebb and flow of my own life and am so grateful for the waves that washed me up on this particular shore. I have to smile at that the silliness of that metaphor. Not only is it trite, but it is inapt since there are no waves around here — just miles of empty prairie. But still, here I am, and with any luck, here’s where I will stay for many more years.

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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.

Spring!

It’s not really spring — it won’t officially be spring for another sixteen days — though today it does feel as if spring might truly be on the way. It’s certainly sunny and windy enough to evoke the coming season, though more wintery temperatures and perhaps even some snow are forecast for next week. Still, the first signs of spring have sprung — a couple of tulips have pushed their way up through the soil and oh, what a welcome sight they are!

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that more than these few hardy bulbs made it through this very cold winter, though there’s really no reason to expect a problem (except, of course, for my lack of a green thumb and even more crucially, my lack of knowledge about how to care for plants).

There are other signs that the ground is warming up — seedlings are sprouting up all over the place, even where I don’t want them to be, such as on my pathways. This would obviously be the best time to hoe up weeds in my garden, but I have no idea which seedling are weeds, which are weedy grasses, and which are flowers. I’ll find out soon enough, I suppose, hopefully early enough that I can get rid of the weeds before they take over.

Although we haven’t had a lot of moisture recently, and although we’ve been treated to desiccating winds, and although I’m sure my grass and various garden spots are ready for a supplemental drink, I’m not going to water quite yet because . . . well, because I don’t want to. I somehow manage to sprinkle myself almost as much as I sprinkle the yard, and it’s still too cold to be outside in damp clothing. (The current temperature of 44 degrees is not all that warm, even though it does have a springlike feel.) Besides, I don’t like battling the wind. Wind frazzles me and makes me feel unsettled.

Besides, even though I can feel a tinge of the awakening spring inside myself, I’m not quite ready for the commitment of gardening and yard care. Nor are my knees. They are protesting just at the thought of all that bending and stooping.

But still — tulips!!

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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.

Sameness

It surprises me how many days can pass without anything special to blog about — just the normal flow of seasons, of light and dark, of . . . sameness. There’s not even anything in my stream of consciousness to make me stop and wonder. Of course, if one pays attention to one’s surroundings, there is always something that’s not exactly the same from day to day or even minute to minute. For example, I’ve noticed that the last couple of snows we had didn’t melt so much as evaporate. They disappeared without leaving behind puddles or even moist dirt. In fact, the ground is so dry, it makes me wonder if I’m going to have to start watering my lawn and garden spots. It’s still cold enough, though, that I could probably pass on the chore for a while longer.

Despite periodic bouts of temperatures that never rise above freezing, there are signs that spring in coming. When I walked home from work last night, it was still light. Well, twilight, but that’s still light enough for me to see my way. The longer days, if nothing else, promise that the spring equinox is not far off.

I’m still ambivalent about the end of winter. It will be nice not to have to deal with the cold, but spring brings a need for outside work. Lots of work! And I’m in a lazy mode right now, not wanting to do much of anything. I imagine when spring is here and I need to start taking care of my yard and gardens, I’ll welcome — at least for a time — the opportunity to be outside. And, I must admit, I am hungry for color. Last winter, my lawn stayed bright green, but this year it’s as drab as the rest of the yard. That the days themselves have so often been gray only exacerbates the drabness.

But then, I have to admit, what I mostly see is words on the pages of the books I am reading, so what is going on elsewhere is of little import.

Come to think of it, I have no idea what is going on elsewhere. Is there still a world out there beyond what I can see with my own eyes? For a while, I watched the news with the woman I sit with a few hours a week, but she lost interest in television. Which means I get to go back to my normal state of obliviousness. For a long time, even before that brief spate of news watching, I inadvertently managed to keep up with what was going on in the world by the events my Facebook friends commented on, but since I stay away from Facebook — if Meta doesn’t want links to my blog, then I don’t want it — I don’t even get that second or third hand news gossip.

I guess the moral of this story — to the extent that there is a moral — is that even when everything seems the same from day to day, things are still changing, whether we want them to or not.

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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 Catalogs

I received a flower catalog in the mail today, and it struck me what a great marketing ploy that is. When people are sick of winter, the snow, the dreary landscape, the gray skies, the unending cold, seeing the bright colors of a potential spring garden would bring out the checkbooks and charge cards of even the most casual gardeners.

If it weren’t for my tight budget (because of the horrendous increase in my homeowner’s insurance), I’d probably be ordering from the catalog right now. I might still have sneaked in an order for a handful of bulbs — who needs to eat, right? — but I want to wait and see what, if anything, comes up on its own this year. Some of the wildflowers I planted last year were perennials, which might bloom again. Some of the wildflowers reseeded themselves, so they, too might bloom. There are also the flowers that I transplanted, like the New England asters, and the fall plants I got last year to add color to my fading garden. And I have a bunch of seeds to fill in areas where nothing blooms, such as the four ounces of zinnia seeds I bought last fall, the seed packets a relative sent me, the wildflower seeds leftover from the previous fall, the larkspur seeds I harvested.

I listed all those possible blooms so that I don’t feel bad about not ordering any of the luscious flowers in the catalog. I also remind myself of all the bulbs I bought that never bloomed — in fact, I’ve never seen such a resplendent display of flowers except in the catalogs. They either cheat and force plants in a greenhouse so that despite different growing schedules, the plants all grow at the same time, or else they . . .

Well, I don’t know what else they do. All I know is that I don’t get the glorious growth that is pictured in the catalogs.

I will be interested in seeing what happens in the spring after all the snow cover we’ve had this winter, so unusual for this dry part of the state. Perhaps this will be the year my own garden is catalog worthy. If not, well, I’ll do what I always do — celebrate the flowers that do come up, and console myself over those that don’t with thoughts of next season’s gardening catalogs.

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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.

The Heartbreak of Spring

Yesterday I intimated that I was looking forward to spring, but that really isn’t the case. Spring is a capricious time, literally blowing hot and cold. Emphasis on “blowing.” Although I appreciate the warming weather, and although I enjoy the signs of the earth’s reawakening, I can do without all the wind. Since this is naturally a windy area, there is a lot of wind, sometimes bringing hot days, sometimes bringing frigid days. And those volatile winds are not something I am looking forward to.

Although spring can be a heartwarming time with buds popping out on trees and inching up from the ground, it’s also a heartbreaking time. In Colorado, and especially here, too often the tender buds on fruit trees and flowering bushes are “nipped in the bud” by late spring frosts. Jeff and I had apricot trees when we lived on the western slope of Colorado, a much more clement area than here, and despite a plethora of blossoms on the trees, there were only a couple of years where those blossoms managed to survive the spring frosts and grow into apricots. Heartwarming, then heartbreaking, for sure. It makes me wonder if I will ever get fruit on my greengage plum trees, but at least — so far — the trees themselves are surviving, so there’s hope.

Gardening, too, is a capricious activity. Take my grass for example — when it was doing well, it was stunningly beautiful, like a jewel spread out at my feet. But nothing remains the same when it comes to gardening — there are constant changes, both good and bad. In the case of the grass, it became heat-stressed, and turned brown. (The photo accompanying this post is before the grass got fed up with the heat and died.) It could come back this spring. Yay! It might not. Boo.

Flowers are the same — some grow, some don’t. Some continue doing well, some shrivel. And the weeds are ever present, growing faster than the flowering plants, growing faster than I can manage to control.

Which brings me to another good/bad spring issue. In previous years, I’ve spent a lot of time outside, trying to keep my yard as beautiful as the mini park I’d hoped it would be, but I’ve gotten lazy this winter. Perhaps when I see things blooming, I’ll bloom along with them and manage to do the necessary work. But in previous years, even when I’ve had the inclination and the energy to work in the yard every day, I’ve fallen short. It was only when fall came around and most things started dying off for the season that I was able to catch up on the work. Sort of. There are still some desiccated plants to clear out, still some grassy areas to replant, still some . . .

I better stop there. If I continue to enumerate all the chores waiting for me come spring, I’ll hunker down and hope that winter never ends.

Well, not really. No matter how volatile and capricious, how much work it takes to keep up a yard, spring really is a heartwarming — and earth-warming — time. When it isn’t breaking your heart, that is.

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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.

White Landscape

I’d fallen back into the habit of blogging every day, so yesterday, when WordPress didn’t give me a prompt or suggestion of what to write about, I decided it was a sign to take a day off.

Habits are interesting — even good habits tend to take over your life. My life, anyway. I start out blogging every day, and soon the habit becomes a thing in itself that needs to be fed, and finally, the habit becomes a mandate. I begin to feel I must post something, and so a pleasant habit becomes a lot less pleasant. I don’t like feeling pushed, and so yesterday I pushed back.

Or it could be that yesterday I was just lazy. There’s a lot of that in my life right now. It’s hard to want to do anything when it’s so cold, and when every time I look out the window, I see the same thing — leftover snow. I can’t remember a year where the snow lingered so long. Colorado is known for its sunny winter days and quick melting snow, but this year? Not so much. It’s not even that we got a lot of snow. For the most part, the snow came from a mere two storms. Right after the first heavy snow had slowly melted, a second storm came and dumped six or more inches. And that snow is still out there.

I’m hoping that the constant moisture will help with spring flowers, but I fear it will also help bring out the weeds. But no — I don’t want to think that way. I simply want to dream of the pretty flowers that will brighten my life in a month or two.

Tulips, maybe.

Perhaps even crocuses.

Or wildflowers.

Anything but the white landscape I’ve been seeing for so many months.

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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 Storm with No Name

I don’t notice any difference between a named storm and a storm with no name. Either way, if you give it a name like “Winter Storm Iggy,” or just call it “snow,” it looks the same from my front door. And it shovels the same.

I truly didn’t think it would snow, and for a silly reason: I planted my wildflower seeds yesterday morning. I figured there was a good chance this storm was just a rumor as they so often are in this forgotten corner of the state, and that the seeds would blow away, but surprisingly, they are now buried under six inches of snow. The seeds might be overkill, since I did put some out there after the first snow had melted (it only took a month!) and before the next snow sprinkling came, but I don’t think it will matter. They are desert seeds, so they might not like the volatile weather we get here. And even if they can get acclimated to the weather, some of the seeds take a year or two to germinate.

I hadn’t expected to, but I am enjoying this snow. I have nothing I need to do, nowhere I need to go, so I figure, let it snow. Not that the snow cares what I think — it’s coming down anyway, as it has been since about 6:30 last night, and will continue as long as it wants whether I give it permission or not.

It will be interesting to see what affect these snows that come and stay will have on my yard this spring. It sure would be nice to see a plethora of blooms! And it would be nice to see if my defunct grass will green up without my having to replant it.

But for now, the white is nice.

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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.

Snow Globe Weather

As I was walking home from work yesterday evening, I felt as if I were in a snow globe. Huge snowflakes fell, and the darkening twilight softened the usually harsh-looking street. It wasn’t really all that cold, which made the walk even more pleasant. We didn’t much snow, nowhere near the three inches they predicted (after they predicted no snow, then light snow, then no snow, then one to three inches). Shortly after the snow fell, the temperature must have dropped quickly because the snow froze and turned my footprints to ice. When I tried to sweep the snow off my ramp this morning, all I could remove was the top layer — the rest was solid ice. Needless to say, I’m not going anywhere until the ice melts.

I’m pleased that before this storm hit, I got some wildflower seeds planted, though I’m not sure if they actually are in the ground. The snows from early December finally melted — except where I wanted to plant the seeds, that is. Oddly, although the north side of the house doesn’t get sun in the winter, it gets too much sun in the summer, which is why the strip of grass died in that area. Fifteen hours of unrelenting summer sun is too much for many plants, which is why I want desert plants in the garden area on the north side.

Since the snow hadn’t melted, I raked it off the garden as best as I could — the snow had hung around so long, it had turned hard and icy, and didn’t want to go anywhere. Still, I got the area cleared as much as I could, tossed my seeds on the ground, and scraped the snow back over the seeds. If none of these come up, I have plenty more to plant closer to spring, but I’m glad about getting some seeds safely under the snow.

Considering how early severe winter weather came this year (last year, winter weather didn’t show up until winter actually came — most of December is fall, after all), it’s possible that we’ll also have an early spring. It’s just as possible, of course, that winter weather will continue way into spring. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. Around here, we can’t really plant anything until after May fifth since that’s supposedly the date of the last frost. (I say supposedly because there have been freezes after that day.)

Regardless of what happens, it’s good to know that one more chore — planting the wildflower seeds — is off my mind.

And yay! The sun just came out so perhaps I can go for a walk later after all. It will be good to stretch my legs, and besides, I’m due for some new library books.

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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.

Feast for the Eyes

I got my first seed catalog yesterday, and oh! It sure brightened the dark, dreary day. A real feast for the eyes.

I’m not sure how much I want to spend on mail order seeds and plants this year. With all the price increases (not just groceries but also utilities and insurance), money will be tighter, but still. Flowers? Always a great investment since food for the soul is as important as food for the body.

Regardless of how it turns out, I can dream about glorious gardens and lush blooms. And anyway, with snow on the ground and more in the forecast, dreaming is about all that can be done right now. Luckily, feasting one’s eyes on beautiful if improbable flower photos in catalogs and dreaming about seeing them in one’s own yard takes a heck of a lot less work than buying the seeds and starters and actually planting them.

Even if I wanted to invest actual money in garden dreams, I still pretty much have to wait until spring and see what in my garden survived the winter. It’s possible that some plants I am counting on won’t make it through this horrendous winter; it’s also possible that other plants will have seeded themselves to fill in the gaps. Besides, if I pass on this opportunity to order plants, there will be other opportunities come spring when localized businesses bring out their gardening wares.

To be honest, this long winter chill has made me so lazy that the thought of working in my yard exhausts me. If I am even more honest, one of the thrills for me of having a garden is being able to take photographs of anything that comes up, so I could borrow someone else’s garden or even just rest on the laurels of past photos.

As if!

We both know that come spring, I’ll be out there doing what I can to reclaim and rebeautify my garden spots, even if it takes more work than I would like.

Meantime, I can feast my eyes not just on the all the catalogs that are sure to come, but also on photos of previous garden successes.

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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.

Staying Warm

The snow we got at the beginning of the week hasn’t melted, which is rare for Colorado. Even in the middle of winter, the snow usually melts quickly, but we are stuck in the middle of a deep freeze — lows close to zero, highs barely above freezing and then for only an hour or two.

Not that it’s a problem — I don’t really have to go anywhere, and if I do, I can walk. Walk very carefully, that is, considering all the ice.

I do feel bad about not knowing the snow would come. (Though how could I have known when even the weather forecasters didn’t know?) This would have been the perfect time to plant my wildflower seeds, with plenty of snow and cold to give them a good start, but there should be other opportunities. After all, winter isn’t even here yet, and from what my neighbors tell me, February is generally the coldest and snowiest month. The very thought makes me shiver. Colder than this? Yikes.

At least I don’t have to worry about watering my lawn! From what I remember of last year, I was watering almost until Christmas when we got our first major snow.

Speaking of Christmas — is it really only nine days away? It doesn’t seem possible — it feels as if this year started only a couple of months ago.

Before Christmas, though — only five days away — is the winter solstice. The end of the creeping darkness. Admittedly, with electric lights, and with my eyes focused so often on a book or the computer screen, I don’t notice the darkness as much as I did when I was younger and having to go to work every day.

And after Christmas — a mere seven days later — a new year begins.

I wonder what’s in store for me. Something good, I hope, though what that good thing would be, I don’t know. If I knew what I hoped for, I’d go after it myself and not wait for the new year to bring it.

Meantime, I’m doing what I can to keep warm. I hope you are too.

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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.