Doing Something Right

I’m a bit surprised at myself. Despite the discouragement of a large swathe of grass getting windburned and flowers dying because of the scorching, arid winds we had a couple of days ago, I’m still out there every day, taking care of my garden. Perhaps I’ve lost some of the joy and maybe even a bit of the zeal I had for gardening, but that isn’t stopping me from doing the best I can for my “baby” (as a friend has dubbed my yard).

Today I watered and weeded, but I also cleaned out some of the dying foliage. The larkspur has run its course, which seems odd to me since they are supposed to bloom all summer, though that might just be in cooler climates. Mine larkspur, for sure, don’t like extreme heat (and we’ve had that in abundance). I did try to cut the flowers back, but they didn’t rebloom, so I let them go to seed. Today I removed a lot of the brown stems and am saving the seeds to replant this fall.

A nice thing about these plants is that they are prolific re-seeders and will pop up next year anywhere the seeds land. Since they don’t last long here, I don’t have to worry about their taking over. They provide nice color early, and then when I have to remove the spent stems, it makes room for later bloomers, such as lilies and echinacea.

There have been a few encouraging developments in my yard, which helps to offset some of the discouragement.

The Shasta daisy I planted last year bloomed for the first time.

The petunias that reseeded themselves are flowering. The original flowers were the dark purple color, but I’m fine with the lighter purple petunias, too, and rightly so since these are basically “free” flowers.

And I had a delightful visitor this morning. A green toad.

I’ve seen brown toads around here, but this is the first green one I’ve ever encountered. At first I wondered if it were a frog, being green and all, so I looked it up. Turns out all toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads, and both frogs and toads are signs of a healthy ecosystem, so despite recent setbacks, having this toad hanging around means I’m doing something right. At least, that’s what I tell 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.

A Day for Friendship

The first year that I did a daily tarot reading, I used a single card. This second year I used two cards. Next month starts my third year, and I’ll probably graduate to a three-card reading. Not that I’m learning anything much either about the tarot or myself, but you never know. If there’s anything to learn, I’m sure I’ll eventually learn it, and if not, well, it’s as good a way to start the day as any other.

Mostly the reading is rote — I pick the cards, look up their meanings and try to figure out how the two cards fit together. Sometimes there seems no discernable relationship; other times, it’s obvious.

Last night, I dreamt of a wedding. I’m not sure who was getting married, though I tend to think it was one of my sisters. The main thing I remember about the dream, other than the talk of her getting married, is that the bridesmaids dresses were going to be brown. This morning’s tarot cards were the four of wands and the ten of cups. In the deck I am currently using, the Egorov Tarot, the four of wands is about completion, prosperity and satisfaction, and love affairs leading to a wedding. The ten of cups is about true happiness in love and friendship, and weddings.

I must admit, this reading amused me, reflecting, as it did, my dream of an upcoming wedding rather than any real-life experience.

Today was a day for friendships, however, so the cards got that right. One friend stopped by this morning to return a pattern for a paper project that she’d borrowed. We chatted for a while until it was time for me to get ready to host a different friend for tea out in my gazebo. Since today was vastly cooler than the past couple of days, this seemed a good time to try out my new gazebo furniture.

The chairs were comfortable, though after our tea, we took a walk to the dollar store to check to see what sort of cushions they might have. Although I liked the cushions I found, I wasn’t sure I needed them. It just seemed as if they would be more things to have to take care of. We also decided the furniture would be able to withstand the elements better without any cushions, so that’s how we left it.

On my way home, I visited with another friend in the middle of the street. The only time I see this woman, it seems, is happenstance when I’m out walking and she’s out driving. Hence our visits in the middle of the road.

That was the best thing about today — seeing friends.

I still feel a bit sick at the desiccated swath of grass (the only good thing about the desiccation is I’ve finally learned to spell desiccate, just as the only good thing about high temperatures is finally learning how to spell Fahrenheit). I’m pretty sure what happened to that grass is that there are no reserves of water beneath that part of the lawn since that patch of grass is being grown over an area that once was part of a gravel driveway. Although there wasn’t much gravel to be seen when the sod was laid, I have a hunch there were many layers of buried gravel beneath the dirt. So, great drainage, but poor sustainability. I’m not giving up, though. The grass did fine for many months, and if I can get resuscitate it, I’m sure it will again do fine. Meantime, I’ll be watering that patch every day for a while.

Many of the plants that were also affected by those hot, arid winds have recovered though, not surprisingly, the Siberian wallflower had no use for the heat and is struggling.

Still, there are plenty of flowers and greenery to enjoy, especially when I’m sitting in my gazebo, on my new chairs, sipping iced tea with a friend.


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

Brown Thumb?

I used to have a brown thumb — brown compared to a green thumb, that is. Instead of everything I tried to grow turning green, things turned brown.

I’ve been thrilled with my garden this year, delighted to see so much greenery and so many different flowers. I thought perhaps my “brown thumb” had finally been cured, but that gave me something else to worry about — my gardening posts have been almost giddy with my success, so deep down inside where I didn’t have to face the thought, I’ve wondered if I were about to get my comeuppance.

Well, I did.

Late yesterday afternoon, a wide swath of my pretty green lawn suddenly turned brown. Did my brown thumb re-emerge? Did my fatalism cause my grass’s doom?

I’m sure, despite the suddenness of the brown attack, the dying swath of grass had nothing to with my thumbs or my fatalism and everything to do with the very strong, very hot, very dry winds that blew through here all day yesterday.

I suppose a green-thumbed person would have foreseen the issue and hence could have prevented it, but I hadn’t a clue. Even if I had thought that the hot, arid winds would desiccate my grass so quickly, I wouldn’t have been able to rehydrate the lawn. Being out in that wind could have wind-burned me, not just my grass, and at my age, dehydration isn’t a joke. (Well, it never is, but youth can sometimes handle physical problems that age cannot.)

That patch of grass got the worst of it, probably because it was in the direct path of the wind. Other plants also succumbed, but those that were protected somehow — mulched, in shade, or had a bush nearby to lessen the wind’s viciousness — came through just fine.

I’d taken down this hanging plant and set it in a protected area. It’s twin, which was not placed in that same protected area, did not fare well at all. An unplanned experiment, for sure!

This whole experience showed me why that sort of weather — temperatures above 100, humidity in the single digits, winds around 40mph — is so dangerous and why it prompts fire warnings. Grass that turns instantly to hay can catch fire easily, and the wind can whip up that fire until it’s uncontrollable. Eek. I’m glad I only have to deal with a patch of desiccated lawn; things could have been so much worse.


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.

Gazing at My Gazanias

This was a rare day when I didn’t have many gardening chores to do. It was a good thing, too, considering that when I went out at 8:30 this morning, the temperature was already zooming toward 100 degrees Fahrenheit. By now, I’m sure, we’re well into the low hundreds, but I don’t want to check. Somehow, knowing the temperature makes it seem even hotter.

The only thing garden-related that I did today was harvest some larkspur seeds. Within a few days, most of my larkspur will have gone to seed, and I want to make sure I save plenty of the seeds for the areas that won’t be reseeded naturally.

Other than that, all I did was I set out my new patio furniture.

I spent a few pleasant minutes sitting in my gazebo, gazing out at my gazanias (and the rest of my backyard, of course) until the insanely hot and heavy winds blew me back inside the house.

It’s a good thing I did so much work on my yard earlier in the spring and especially earlier this month because for sure I won’t be doing much in the coming days. I have absolutely no interest in sweltering in the heat and being desiccated by the wind.

It’s also a good thing I have air conditioning. As pleasant as the view is outside, on a day like today, it’s even more pleasant to be pleasantly cool.


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 Goals

I had to work most of the day today, and my plants needed to be watered. Because of the intense heat, I couldn’t let the plants go an extra day, so I was out in my yard with the early morning humidity, the gnats, and the mosquitoes. Oh, such fun! You do know I’m being ironic, right? Although I usually enjoy my outside chores, there’s something utterly annoying about gnats up one’s nose and mosquitoes whining at one’s ears. I can only hope my mosquito repellant worked because I’ve already had more than my share of mosquito bites this year.

Despite those small annoyances, I still took the time to enjoy the flowers and was even awake enough to think about what I was seeing — California poppies with a few Icelandic poppies. Where else can you get such a disparate mix, not just of color and interest, but of geographic distances? I can’t imagine that those two places have much in common, and yet, there are representatives of both areas in my yard.

Maybe next year I’ll look for poppies from other places and make a true international poppy garden. Or not. It’s a lot easier to let the seed companies mix the seeds for me.

I paused here to Google the company where I purchased my wildflower seeds last year, and it turns out they are now selling a different low-growing mix that includes a European poppy but no Icelandic poppy, so if I want more Icelandic poppies, I’ll have to get those seeds separately. There’s no hurry to decide. After all, despite various flowers in my yard, it’s not even summer yet.

I’ll be interested in seeing if I’ll have any blooms come summer. The larkspur is already going to seed, and I have no idea how long most of the wildflowers will keep blooming. Luckily, there are plenty of things in my yard, so there should be some color. The trumpet vine is just beginning to flower, for example, and I do know that it blooms all summer.

As for the rest, I’ll keep track of growing cycles to see what I’ll do differently next year because ultimately, the goal is to have something blooming all season long.

A different goal, of course, is to remain free of mosquito bites. Luckily, I don’t often have to go outside as early as I did today, though with temperatures heating up, I might have to. Oh, well. One takes the bad with the good and hope it all evens out one way or another.


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

The Joys of Getting Older

It wasn’t that long ago when I could lift 50 pounds. In fact, three years ago when I was setting up my office/media room, I had to lift a 50-pound television onto a stand, and I managed it. Barely. (Why do I have a television, you might ask, since I don’t subscribe to any sort of television programming and wouldn’t watch it if I did? Well, when I moved here, before I got involved with reading again — which I’d given up after Jeff died because I couldn’t handle stories where someone died or was lonely or fell in love — I would watch movies, both DVDs and VCR tapes.)

I’d obviously gotten weaker because it was a struggle to lift that television. I’m sure I’ve become a lot weaker since then, especially considering the problems with my knees, so when I found out that the box containing the outdoor furniture I ordered would be about 58 pounds, I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it. I considered opening the box where the delivery person dumped it, but I was concerned about perhaps losing small parts outside or damaging my antique wood floors if the deliverer was kind enough to bring the box inside, or any number of things.

In the end, it was easy. I and my knees were strong enough to lift one end of the box, so I slipped a towel underneath that end of the box, then lifted other end of the box and slipped a towel underneath it too. That enabled me to slide the box to my work room where I will — eventually — assemble the table and chairs. Assuming the holes match up, that is. A couple of reviewers said the holes didn’t line up, but other reviewers said if you arrange the pieces properly, the holes do line up, which I hope is true.

It’s too late today to do the work — I need time to concentrate, and my ability to concentrate, like my ability to lift heavy things, seems to be weakening.

Even if I have to wait a few days before I can assemble the furniture, it will be fine. There’s no way I’m going to be sitting outside (even if I do have a lovely place to sit) when the temperature is well over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, and it will be several days before we’re back into the nineties.

I’m looking forward to the project — assembling furniture is the adult version of putting a model together, and seems more like play than work. At least it seems that way to me. Or I should say: at least it seems that way to me until I get frustrated.

Frustration, unfortunately, seems to be gaining strength as the more practical attributes like being able to lift things and being able to concentrate are weakening.

Ah, the joys of getting older! (That’s irony in case you don’t recognize it.) I consider myself lucky that I can still manage to do the things I need to do without damaging myself or my surroundings. I’m hoping my luck continues to hold until I finish this particular task, whenever that might be.


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.


People often say, “You get what you deserve.” They don’t say it to me, necessarily; it’s just one of those meaningless phrases people use to try to find meaning — and fairness — when there is none.

A good example of the phrase meaning what it says is when a person picks on someone and that someone retaliates. As I have observed, though, bullies never see the retaliation in terms of their actions; they see the retaliation as the victim picking on them. So even though the bullies might deserve what they get, the bullies do not see it.

It’s the same with smokers who get lung cancer; people assume the smokers get what they deserve, but non-smokers also get lung cancer. My mother was one of those — never smoked, was never around smokers — though in a bizarre twist, her death certificate states that she was a lifelong smoker. She neither “deserved” to die of lung cancer nor to have a falsified death certificate, but those things happened. And speaking of death, did Jeff “deserve” to die at 63? Did my dad deserve to live to 97? Those are questions I have no answer for, nor does anyone.

What has made me think of this matter of deserving is something else, something more pleasant. My current living situation to be exact.

Here I am, living in a lovely house surrounded by a lovely yard with a fabulous garage and a delightful outdoor room (aka a gazebo). I do not know how I got to be so lucky, especially since it wasn’t that long ago when I was worrying about ending up on the streets. I had a small amount of savings that was rapidly being depleted, and I had no idea what I would do when it was gone. (I wouldn’t have lived “on the streets” as such — naively, I figured I would live in the national parks, going from one to another. If I had to be homeless, that seemed a more interesting way of living.)

Instead, following advice from a relative, I used that money to buy a house in the poorest county in Colorado, only a couple of hundred miles from some of the most expensive real estate in the country. It was the only place I could afford, but it turned out to be a true boon. The perfect place for me — not just the house and neighborhood, but the town itself.

Do I deserve my good fortune? I doubt it. (Did I deserve all the bad luck I’ve previously had? I doubt that, too.)

I also ended up with a lot of friends — some close friends, some close acquaintances, and some casual acquaintances. (This seems to be a good town for making friends — one such friend recently mentioned that they’d never had so many friends. Neither have I, to be honest.) I might deserve these friends because as far as I can tell, I am a good friend in return, and I do try to do things if not for these people, then for the community. (Such as my most recent donation of brownies for a local event.) But whether deserved or not, I do cherish each friendship.

But the rest of it? As far as I can see, my good fortune has little to do with my deserving it. Perhaps I deserve to have a pretty yard since I am putting a lot of effort into it, but so much of the beauty comes other from people’s labor as well as nature’s work. (Many of the flowers reseed themselves, so I reap the benefit without having any blisters and calluses to show for it.)

I wake up every morning amazed that I am living in such a house on a mini estate. And I am eternally grateful for my good luck, especially since deep down I truly doubt I did anything to “deserve” it. Though I am doing what I can to try to deserve what I’ve been given.

Still in the end, perhaps it’s not about deserving, but about making the best of whatever life hands 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.

A “Not Too” Sort of Day

The problem with taking a day off is that it doesn’t give me anything to write about. I didn’t need to do any work in my yard today or catch up on household chores. I did make a quick grocery shopping trip to the next town over, but even that was pretty typical. They did overcharge me for an item and it took a while to find someone who would correct it, but that, too, is typical and not worth discussing. There’s not even any weather to comment on because so far, it’s been a “not too” sort of day. Not too hot. Not too cold. Not too sunny. Not too cloudy. Not too windy. Not too dry. Not too humid.

I did wander around my estate for a few minutes, checking to make sure my charges were all doing well. And they were. In fact, more wildflowers are springing up, though I had thought all the seeds I’d planted last fall had already sprouted. But they are still coming in.

Since there’s nothing new to talk about, I thought I’d post photos of some of my garden whimsies. Ever since seeing my sister’s garden, where she planted broken pieces of pottery among her flowers, I’ve been enamored with the idea of garden decorations. (Though, truly, a garden should be decoration enough!)

There were a few stray tiled concrete blocks in the yard when I bought the place, so I moved them from the refuse heap to the middle of a garden. Not only are they attractive, but they give me something to stand on when I weed in hard-to-reach places.

And who can’t help smiling at frogs courting among the petunias?

Or at birds creating a home for themselves in a teapot?

I’m limited in areas where I can place such artifacts — because of our wind, they need to be in protected locations. I am looking for something large to be a focal point, but I don’t know what that would be or where I would put it. Since the yard is a perpetual work in progress, I’m sure that piece (and a place for it) will come in time. And if not, well, what I have is plenty. Not too many. Not too few.


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

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

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

Garden Party

Today was the “maiden voyage” of my new gazebo. The Art Guild held their meeting here in the gazebo, and oh, it was so lovely! We were cool and comfortable in what is essentially an outdoor room. It took a little while to set up because I don’t have patio furniture, so I had to scrounge for a table and enough chairs for all of us.

It was fun being able to show off my house, garage, yard. Especially the yard. It looked so very nice, though admittedly, before they came, I had to spend time clearing away all the detritus that blew in from last night’s storm. (Odd how so many things blow into the yard — trash, leaves, twigs — but nothing blows out again.) Still, it was worth taking the time to make everything nice. One of the members used to live here (I bought the house from her and her husband), and she was thrilled to see what I’ve done with the place.

After the business meeting and refreshments (ice tea and made-from-scratch brownie bites), we started in on a surprise project. A surprise to them but not to me, obviously, since I’d planned it.

Until I became a gardener for real, using live plants, I made miniature gardens and miniature plants, using all sorts of materials such as paper, clay, beads, florist tape, whatever I could find. I only have room in my house for a couple of those miniature gardens, so I thought I’d share my extra flowers and plants with the Art Guild. The guild members picked out the tile they wanted for their garden base, and then they filled them with various miniature pretties.

(I thought that was a clever idea, to make gardens at a garden party.)

It was amazing to me (and to them!) seeing all the work that had gone into making those small plants, but that was a different time and place, as well as a different version of me. It’s amazing, too, to think I had so much free time to spend on such projects because now I seem to have barely enough time to do the basic things of daily life. Well, those and working in my yard.

Luckily, there is a joint Art Guild and Historical Museum tea this weekend, so I was able to donate the rest of the brownie bites to a good cause.

It was a good day, and I was thrilled that my gazebo was as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be.


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

Growing Smiles

I wore myself out today, not just watering and weeding, but sweeping the sidewalks and putting everything back the way it was before the construction crew did their work. (They’re still not completely finished with the gazebo/hut, but all that’s left to do is paint the ceiling and do some touchups on the roof.) I wasn’t sure I liked my hut — it’s a lot darker and the roof is a lot steeper than I thought it would be — but it’s growing on me. It’s going to be a great addition to my mini estate!

I also got a few more plant starters at the hardware store. The owner kind of laughed at me when she noticed me, or rather I should say, she laughed with me. She finds it as amusing as I do that I stop by so often to indulge my plant addiction.

It was kind of silly, I suppose, to have spent so much time today grooming my yard in preparation for the Art Guild meeting tomorrow, partly because the wind came up and blew more detritus on the newly swept walks, partly because it ended up raining, and partly because I’m sure the members would never notice the holes in the landscaping, especially since the yard is a work in progress.

But I notice.

The biggest hole was where the pole for a hanging plant was recently set at the junction of my two sidewalks/ramps. Ramps will go up eventually, but I need something now at that junction so people who are unfamiliar with my house don’t step back and tumble off the stoop. Unfortunately, while planting the pole, a lot of larkspurs got demolished. So I filled in the area with golden-yellow zinnias.

It’s funny to me that despite my wearing myself out with yardwork, the very sight of the yard makes me smile. It’s just so pretty! Even better, are the surprises, such as my “ugly duckling.” It’s not at all ugly, of course. In fact, it’s beautiful. It’s just a different sort of poppy than the rest. The yellow ones are California poppies, and the pink is an Icelandic poppy.

It’s also funny that I never wanted a yard that took a lot of work. But, oh, the smiles that I grow— mine and everyone else’s — are so worth it!


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

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

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