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.

Treasure Hunt

I went on a treasure hunt of a different kind, today. Last fall, I’d planted a few pink echinacea, and that area of my garden, next to the new grass, had become so overgrown with crabgrass and weeds (probably because of all the watering I had to do to keep my new sod alive through the winter), that the echinacea disappeared. I knew vaguely where they were, but the new growth made the area seem so much like foreign territory, that I didn’t know for sure, and I was afraid to just start yanking unwanted vegetation in case I also yanked the wanted plants.

I finally noticed that one plant, a bit farther from the sod than the others, had broken the surface. I figured if the other plants survived the winter, they should also be visible now, so that’s what my hunt was about — looking through all the weeds to find the echinacea. I think I found them all. I carefully dug up the thick clumps of weeds and crabgrass to give the echinacea space, and then drove stakes next to the plants so I wouldn’t have to go searching for them again.

There is still a lot more cleaning up I have to do, but until I can identify more of the baby plants, I don’t want to start digging lest I remove some seedlings I might want. Many plants look alike when they are young, such as larkspur and wild mustard, and it’s too easy to pull up the wrong thing. In fact, the mustard grows among the larkspur, making the whole patch look as if it might be mustard, so when the plants are big enough to differentiate, I have to be very careful to only pull the weeds.

I tend to think most of the small unidentified seedlings are weeds. I don’t see anything that looks as if it might be the beginning of a wildflower field, so either it’s too early or the birds ate the seed. The birds did seem to be inordinately interested in my little garden patch this winter despite a full birdfeeder just a few feet away in my neighbor’s yard, so who knows what, if anything, I will end up with.

What’s nice about having work to do outside is that it gives me an excuse to be out in the open air, especially on nice days. Although today wasn’t particularly warm, it qualified as a nice day because the horrid winds we’ve having took a brief break. I did enjoy that!

If the ten-day forecast is anything to go by, it looks as if we are heading into frost-free weather, so I could start planting if I wished. But I don’t wish. The wind, you know.

After my treasure hunt and the clean-up that followed it, I spent some time wandering my paths, enjoying both the landscape and the hardscape that’s been laid down, and thinking about someday having my own private park, when everywhere I turn, I’ll see a different aspect of the yard. For example, the lilac bushes are all still young (the big plant in the corner of this garden photo is a baby lilac), but when they are grown up, that part of the yard will look completely different.

As with everything else in my life, I’m trying to not look too much to the future, trying to keep my eyes on what is rather than what might be or what will be.

And today, what is, is a garden spot that still looks nice, weeds, and all.

***

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

Momentous Day

This is turning out to be rather a momentous day. Shortly after I woke up, I heard banging. I kept looking outside at the neighbors’ houses, trying to see what was going on. I even stepped outside for a minute to peek across the alley, but I couldn’t see anyone doing any sort of work.

The banging continued, and then I heard the sound of a pipe reverberating near my house, which made me realize the banging was in my yard. So I went back outside and walked around the house, and there was one of the people who has been sporadically working on my property. He was pounding in the metal edging between the path and the grass to make it easier for me to mow. It was supposed to be done anyway, so it wasn’t a special consideration, but still I was thrilled to see him doing the work today. It’s been a while since anyone stopped by to anything. (The last time was when they came to check the plumbing to make sure a leak didn’t account for my exorbitant water bill.)

He did a few other minor chores while he was here, and we talked about some of the work that needed to be done (apparently, this worker is one that my contractor trusts to do my work). He says he’ll be back, and I’m sure he will . . . some day. Still, I’m delighted that a bit of work was done!

My tarot reading amused me today since it seemed to reflect the work he did: “What was accomplished up to now gets an even greater boost.” A secondary meaning to my reading was: “Everything grows and becomes more abundant.” For sure!! Weeds, anyone? Lots and lots of weeds are growing everywhere.

Adding to the momentousness, today is the birthday of a tree in Denver’s City Park near where I grew up. Shakespeare’s Elm, a tree planted from a scion taken from the tree on Shakespeare’s grave, is 106 years old today. The tree was always special to me. In fact, a friend and I threw birthday parties for the tree many years ago. We’d sent out invitations to friends as well as the media and some city bigwigs, but the only people who showed up besides those we knew were a couple of cops. We made them welcome, gave them green punch and tree cookies, but they weren’t really there to party. They were scoping out the gathering, thinking perhaps it was . . . I don’t . . . some sort of drug rendezvous. Anyway, after about a half an hour, they looked at each other, and one said with amazement in his voice, “They really are having a party for this tree.”

Back then, it was a forgotten historical monument, but over the years, there have been several articles in the Denver newspapers and magazines showcasing that amazing tree.

So all in all, a momentous day, and it’s not even over yet!

***

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.

The Courage to Start Over

Two characters in the book I am reading are talking about why they moved to that particular small town. One was born there, moved away, then returned for as yet undisclosed reasons. The other said she just wanted to start over. The first woman said, “I think it’s admirable. A lot of people don’t have the courage to do something like that.”

Is it true? Does it take courage to move to a new place to start over? Or is it that sometimes we’ve lost so much there’s nothing to lose by doing so?

I know several widows who moved out of their homes, and then took off, looking for a place to settle. A couple of them bought RVs, traveled across country, and eventually found a place they liked well enough to stay. Others just . . . wandered. It might have taken courage, but I have a hunch it was simply easier than staying and living with the memories and the ghosts of things past. Some people who are left behind do stay in their once-shared home and that, perhaps, takes more courage than heading out to look for a new place.

In my case, after Jeff died, I moved to a different state to take care of my father, and when he too died, I wandered. In between road trips, I’d rent rooms in people’s houses. Then three years ago, I bought a house sight unseen (though I had seen photos), in an area I’d only driven through once. At the time, I knew no one in town, though I promptly rectified that little matter. Did any of this take courage? Not particularly. Does it take courage for a stone that was catapulted into the air to land somewhere? No. It’s just the way things are. It’s the same thing when you are catapulted out of your life — you eventually have to land somewhere. It’s just the way things are.

Come to think of it, that’s not the only time I went looking for a new place to live, though the other times were with Jeff. We were fed up with the growth of Denver and the attendant problems like crime and pollution. We were also without work. So we just took off with no destination in mind. I don’t think that took courage; it was an adventure, and to be honest, once we left everything behind, it was the freest I ever felt in my entire life. The problem with such an irrevocable act is that eventually you have to find a place to live, and that search destroys the feeling of freedom.

It’s a good thing this place is working out for me because I don’t have another move left in me.

But I am getting off the theme of “courage.” Although I have done many things people say take courage — such as dealing with grief, my solo road trips, buying my first house so late in life — I didn’t particularly feel courageous. I did endure, however, and I did persevere despite having lost so much, and I tend to think that counts more than mere courage.

***

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 Day Was Just Packed

This was one of those days that was so packed I barely had time to relax or eat, though I did manage to do both. Making the day even more insane was the wind. Without the wind, it would have been a lovely warm day, conducive to doing all I needed and wanted to get done, but with the wind? Yikes.

I started out walking errands. (Since I no longer run, I can’t in all honesty use the phrase “running errands,” and since the part for my brakes remains elusive — or perhaps it’s just the mechanic that remains elusive — I can’t run my car for errands, either.) I visited with friends I encountered at the store for a while, then went home and mowed the lawn.

The grass might not have been needed to be mown so soon — it was just last weekend, if I remember correctly, that I mowed it the first time — but I gave that lawn such a bad haircut that it needed to be redone. (The grass had been so tall, the poor mowers — both the machine and the human working the machine — struggled to get the job finished any way they could.)

I had just finished cutting the grass and was admiring my work when a man who lives across the street and down the alley came running up to me, all upset to see that the lawn had been mown. It turns out he wanted the clippings for his compost heap. I told him I still have the clippings — my mower mulches the clippings, so I spread them around my plants — but he wasn’t interested. He asked if he could have the clippings the next time, and I agreed; he even said he’d mow the lawn to get the clippings, and I agreed to that, too.

I did some other outside work, then came in for a quick bite to eat because a friend was due to come pick me up so we could join the community wellness walk. The wind was extraordinarily strong, but we did the walk. We just didn’t stand in line at all the check-in booths along the way. We knew we walked; it didn’t matter if anyone else knew, too.

As if that weren’t enough, I still had to go check out the house I am taking care of for an absent friend, and now here I am.

Whew! What a day!

The thing I am most proud of is that despite all that, I still took time to tiptoe through the tulips. Well, not through them, beside them. These particular tulips I planted alongside one of my pathways, and I am thrilled that the sight is as lovely as I hoped.

Yep. The day was just packed.

***

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.

Letting the Future Take Care of Itself

I accidentally came across an article yesterday about how signs of neglect when it comes to the home of an elderly person, such as an overgrown yard or dilapidated house, can prompt an investigation and perhaps have their home taken away.

I say I “accidentally” came across the article because it’s not a subject I would ever pursue on purpose — just that brief scan gave me the heebie-jeebies. I’m not sure how true it is that signs of neglect can prompt an investigation, especially in an area like this where there are so many derelict houses (many owned by the resident slumlord), but it made me worry about taking care of my house and made me wonder what I was thinking when I put in the lawn.

I can take care of both the house and lawn now with no problem, but as I get older? Not so much. And it’s doubtful whether I’d have the wherewithal to pay for getting things taken care of. So there I will be, a frail old lady, with an unkempt yard and a house desperately in need of paint, and . . .

Nope. Don’t want to go there.

Actually, I do know what I was thinking when I put in the yard. I wanted a small patch of green in the front because I figured I could easily take care of that even if I got frail, but I ended up with the tag-end of someone else’s sod job. I worried that those leftovers wouldn’t be enough to cover the area I’d set aside for a small lawn, but the workers kept laying the sod and laying the sod and pretty soon I had a pretty yard that will eventually be pretty hard to take care of.

I did have to laugh at my tarot reading today. The Three of Wands said I had great skill in realizing plans and goals, but the Two of Pentacles warned that my goals are becoming incompatible with reality. Yep. Sounds about right. Especially when it comes to the yard. The whole point of creating paths and planting wildflowers that will eventually naturalize was to make things easier on me in my old age, not harder.

But I can’t be sorry about the grass. It is so pretty! I’ll keep it looking good as long as I can and try not to worry about what comes after. I did think, the other day when I was mowing, that I should have put the pretty lawn on the neighbor’s property. That way I’d be able to enjoy it without having to do the upkeep!

I suppose I’ll get used to the work when I get used to the tools (the next one I need to figure out how to use is my string trimmer), but for the next few days, I’m taking a hiatus, both on the worrying and on the work. I’m not even watering anything. It’s just too darn windy to be outside.

By the time the wind dies down (according to the forecast, we’re in for a lot of wind for another couple of weeks), the last frost will have passed. I’m hoping the frost we had last night will be the last — it sure took a toll on my poor tulips. Luckily, I thought to take a picture yesterday when they were looking good.

Also, luckily, I am hale enough that I can still maintain myself and my property. That’s all that should matter today. The future can take care of itself.

***

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.

Breezy Day

It’s a bit breezy today, with winds up to thirty mph and possible gusts up to 60 mph. Surprisingly, despite the high-speed air movement (and if we don’t take into consideration any potential gusts), we are well within the “breeze” category.

Winds with speeds of 4 to 31 miles per hour are considered to be breezes, so a thirty-mile an hour wind, even if it comes with a high wind warning, is still considered a breeze. I always thought the term “gentle breeze” was redundant, but apparently not. What I considered to be a gentle breeze — anything less than winds of 4 miles per hour — is not even a breeze. It’s just light air movement. A gentle breeze is a wind with a speed of 8 to 12 miles per hour. A fresh breeze is a wind with a speed of 19 to 24 miles per hour. A strong breeze is a wind with a speed of 24 to 31 miles per hour. A gale is a wind with a wind speed of 32 to 63 miles per hour. My dictionary defines a gale as a strong current of air. Who knew Webster had such a sense of understatement! (In case you’re interested, a storm is stronger than a gale, and a hurricane strongest of all.)

I understand how important wind is — without wind, there would be no seed dispersal, no pollination, no long-awaited rain in dry regions. There would be few livable climates on the earth since winds help diffuse the air and moisture, making more of the earth habitable. Without wind, the ocean currents would die down. Entire ecosystems would disappear. Weather extremes would be huge, either intensely hot or penetratingly cold, either totally arid or mainly rainy.

Despite my knowing the importance of wind, wind is still my least favorite weather. It makes every other type of weather, be it snow or rain, sleet or heat, so difficult. Besides which, it’s dangerous, causing damage to people, animals, and property. Although I love trees, I am glad there are no trees nearby to cause potential damage. A tree limb fell straight down during a windstorm where Jeff and I lived, and the crash, just outside my bedroom window, sounded like an explosion. Felt like one, too. A couple of feet closer, and that would have been the end of me, so I am especially leery of trees in the wind. (A neighbor has a tree with a creaking branch, so I had a tree guy come and look at it to make sure that if it fell, it would be nowhere near me or my house.)

With any luck, later today the wind will finish its job — moving air around — and it will be calmer tomorrow. My frazzled nerves can use the rest.

***

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.

Perfect Spring Day

Today was a perfect spring day — warm, slight breeze, clear skies. It’s been a while since the last rain, so I took the opportunity to water my grass and other plants. In retrospect, it would probably have been a good idea not to walk to the grocery store first, but I needed to get a few things, and besides, it hadn’t yet warmed up yet enough to water when I left to do my errand. (It has to be warm because I tend to drench myself, and I don’t particularly relish the idea of catching a chill.)

Now — ouch — I am sore all over. I’m not used to being on my feet that long, nor am I used to all the walking, not just to the store but around my yard. Because of the configuration of the greenery, with long swaths of grass rather than one huge lawn, I have to keep moving the hoses. I set one in the front and one in the back, and by the time I get back to the front, it’s time to move the hose. So then I return to the back yard and move that hose and head to the front again. A soaker hose would be a good idea, but that’s all it is — a good idea. I’ve never found one that does the job. And anyway, it irritates me having to set a hose, come inside until it’s time to move it, and then just when I’m getting involved in doing something, having to go back outside. It’s far easier, though perhaps more painful, just to stay outside and enjoy the day until the task is finished.

When it heats up enough to where I have to water more frequently, it would probably be a good idea if I did the grass one day and the flowers and bushes the next. Doing it all in one day is what set my poor feet on fire. But it’s worth it. The yard is looking good!

I never particularly cared for grass; it seemed rather a frivolous plant, so I find the pride — and joy — I take in my lawn amusing. And I do take joy in it. Although the grass had faded somewhat during the winter, it’s greening up again, and oh, is it bright! Gemstone bright.

Also sprouting up are the larkspur that planted themselves last year after I let the flowers go to seed. The wild mustard is sprouting, too. I will eventually have to pull up the mustard, since it’s a weed that takes over, but now, when it is young and ferny, it is so pretty. The lilacs are coming alive, too, and it looks as if a few of those young bushes might even have flowers this year.

So perfect weather. Lots of green. Signs of growth. All that adds up to such a perfect spring day, I don’t even mind how sore I am. Well, not much.

***

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.

Road Trip

Friends and family who visit Denver don’t make the trek out here to visit me, nor do I go to Denver to see them. The trip is a few miles short of 200 miles, so it seems doable, and yet, oh, my, what a long drive it is! You’d think it would be a nice drive considering that the highway skirts the foothills in spots, but it isn’t.

Oh, there is an occasional lovely view out the window, such as snowy mountain scenes

or the Air Force Academy,

but mostly, there are miles and miles and miles of traffic and housing developments and immense shopping areas full of immense stores. In fact, once we hit I-25, we saw relatively few empty miles. I know the growth shouldn’t have shocked me, because after all, the out-of-control growth is the reason I moved to the western slope and now to the sparsely populated southeastern corner of the state, but signs of unchecked growth still surprised me in certain areas. One town that was practically non-existent when I was young had grown to 10,000 by the time I left the front range and is now up to 80,000 and still growing rapidly. Yikes.

We didn’t have time (nor did I have the inclination) to visit my old neighborhood, but the neighborhood we did go to was reminiscent of areas I was familiar with —

a mansion or two surrounded by a lot of smaller houses.

I was glad to for a chance to walk a bit, stretching my legs, and getting a feel for the neighborhood as we headed to a

for a tasty lunch. (I had a half of a Philly steak sandwich and sweet potato fries) and then we continued back to the car on a roundabout route that took us past a Masonic Temple. (Denver always seemed to be a stronghold for Masons, but that’s just my perception and not necessarily the reality.)

The trip back home took us again through those same three cities, with a stop at the Peterson Air Force Base. Oh, excuse me. Google informs me that it is now the Peterson Space Force Base.

The highlight of the trip, of course, was being able to spend time with my friends, but a close second was being able to see the stars so bright in the dark skies. One of my friends lives outside of town where there is no light pollution, and since there was no moon when we stopped by her place at the end of the trip, those stars sure shone on that black obsidian backdrop!

Although I enjoyed the day, it was so exhausting that I have a hunch it will be a long time before I take another road trip. I do know that I will no longer feel slighted if people don’t make it out here to see me. This really is the back of the beyond, and a long way from where I once lived.

***

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? If you haven’t yet read this book, now is the time to buy since it’s on sale.

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

Slushfall

The weather couldn’t decide what it wanted to do yesterday. First it rained, then it snowed, then it slushed. I had not experienced a slushfall before, but apparently, it was too cold for rain, too warm for snow to form flakes, and so what fell were globules of slush.

This wouldn’t have been a problem except for the poor drainage in this town. Apparently, some functionary at one time decided it was a good idea to get rid of the culverts and hump the streets instead. This tends to keep the streets dry, because moisture drains to curbs and street gutters, but since the gutters don’t drain as they should, water tend to puddle, making it impossible to cross the street on foot in wet weather.

Normally, I solve the problem of flooded gutters by walking in the street, but at the cross streets, there are bumper-scraping dips on either side of the road, which drain slowly, so on days like yesterday, not only do the gutters overflow, so do those deep dips. The flooding was so severe, I had to walk way out of my way to find places to cross the rivers of slush to get to work. By afternoon, there was so much slush, I wouldn’t have been able to find a way to avoid sloshing through the flooded areas, and I dreaded walking home in the inevitable sodden boots and socks.

The place where I work is two blocks from my house. I have walked those two blocks in deep snow, frigid winds, icy rains, moonless nights, horrendous heat. No matter what the weather, I have turned down offers of a ride because I wanted that small adventure.

Well, the slush defeated me, so last night, I gladly accepted a ride. It was the only way to get around and through the flooded areas.

Fearing that the slush would freeze overnight, I went out in the dark and shoveled the walk. I also shoveled my ramp from the front door to the sidewalk as best as I could without scraping off the paint and non-skid strips. My best wasn’t all that good because today I have an icy slide all the way down to the sidewalk, which sort of defeats the purpose of a handicap ramp. Luckily, the sun is out, so it won’t be long until the ice melts.

I have no idea what impact this weather will have on my tulips. They’d already started poking through the ground, but perhaps the temperatures didn’t drop below freezing long enough to have an effect. But there’s nothing I can do about it. The poor things are on their own.

As for me, I can only hope the melting will help drain the slushy street gutters and dips so I can manage to get to work with relatively dry feet. If not, well, I’ll bring dry shoes and socks so I won’t have to spend the day in sodden footwear.

These are last year’s tulips. With any luck, they will bloom again this year.

***

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.