Seedling Forest

We’ve talked before on this blog about the changes that are happening or might be happening because of having to wear masks. Without being able to see smiles, we don’t connect as well with others. Without being able to see mouths forming words, we don’t hear as well. (Which is a serious problem for the hard of hearing.) Without the humanization of faces, we are in danger of becoming dehumanized. And, as I’ve been discovering, they make us cranky, especially me.

I’ve been shopping at the local market partly as a rebellion against the closures — it seems so wrong to keep Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, and other corporate businesses open, but forcing smaller businesses to close their doors. You’d think the local grocer would be pleased to have such a loyal customer, but what was once a pleasant experience has become decidedly less so. Out of the last three visits, twice I was overcharged, twice the clerk was rude, twice I ended up fuming and thinking that maybe shopping at Walmart isn’t so horrible after all.

(This rudeness is something I’ve often wondered about when it comes to small independent stores. They don’t offer the discounts that the major stores do, they don’t offer service, they don’t smile or make the visit anything more than a ho-hum shopping trip. They act as if they’re that pretty girl who knows she’s pretty and so has to do nothing to foster a relationship but accept one’s homage.)

Today the shopping experience was especially unpleasant, and I know it was the crank factor.

The skies are cloudy, though there are no clouds — that cloudiness is the smoke drifting here from the fires in Colorado and California. Because the air is still, the smoke just hangs around. (Such irony! There have been strong winds most of the summer, and now that we need to move out the smoke, the winds have disappeared.) Although I can see (and taste) the smoke, I can’t smell the air — I am allergic to smoke, so my poor aching sinuses have closed off my smeller. It’s hard enough to breathe without the mask, but once that’s added, oh, my. So not fun! (Hence the tendency toward crankiness.) I should, of course, have thought of this before I went to the store, but I needed to drive my car and I wanted to get various healthy snacks to take to work tomorrow. (We always have an afternoon snack, so I’ve been eating things that are in her house but aren’t on my diet, such as cookies. I don’t have to have them, but the sharing of a meal is even more important than the snack itself.)

So what does all this have to do with my seedling forest? Not a whole lot, really, except that it pleases me to be growing trees at a time so many trees are being destroyed. Admittedly, these seedlings will not in any way offset the millions of trees being burned, but then, there’s not much any one person can do about any of the horrors that are defining our world today — the fires, the riots, The Bob, wearing masks. Still, it’s something.

Most of the seedlings are locusts that planted themselves in my yard, though one was grown from a seed in the pot itself. Previously, I’ve tried transplanting the seedlings into the ground directly, and they just died. (I have a hunch it has to do with the harsh sun burning their tender shoots before they got over their transplant shock). Oddly, the seedlings seem to like the pots. A couple of the seedlings are Kentucky coffeetrees, new additions from my next-door neighbor. Apparently, these trees are rare in this area, and her next-door neighbor ending up cutting down his coffeetree (to the horror and sorrow of the tree cutter) as well as a couple of my neighbor’s trees (a property line dispute, which makes me even happier that I had my property surveyed), so she and I are trying to repopulate the area with these gems.

Planting trees seems such a hopeful, non-cranky thing to do, and best of all, I don’t need to wear a mask to tend to my seedling forest.

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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

Life Lessons

Being cranky and impatient with the shenanigans of others as I currently am has a good side. At least for me. Being hyper aware of people’s shortcomings is like a having a mirror that shows me my own shortcomings, shows me what I need to work on.

The people who insist on making everything about them are reminding me the world does not revolve around a single person. We all revolve around each other, all have a place, even if it’s hard to concede another’s place, even if it’s hard to hold our own.

Those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, including seemingly simple actions that affect others such as asking for more than is offered, are teaching me to be mindful of how everything affects everything else, and to accept the consequences of what I do.

Those who insist on always being right are teaching me that sometimes kindness and discretion are a greater right.

Those who insist on having the last word are teaching me to hold my tongue.

Those who insist on always doing their own thing even in a synchronized dance class are teaching me the importance of cooperating to get harmonious results.

Those who constantly one-up others, who have done more, been sicker or healthier, been more successful or more victimized, are teaching me that modesty has its place. (Actually, this is something I already know. But these poor folks remind me why I do not like to push myself forward.)

One of these days my hypersensitivity will pass, but these lessons will remain with me. I hope.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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