Field of Hopes, Field of Dreams

A friend asked how many holes I’d dug, and what I planted. It was easier to answer here than as a comment, and besides, it brings me one day closer to my goal of 100 continuous days of blogging.

I must have dug a hundred holes. I had more than three hundred bulbs, and approximately three went into each hole (all properly spaced properly). In retrospect, it was silly doing it all in one day because I worked too hard and ended up with a bad cough that is preventing me from doing anything, especially not planting the last ten bulbs (lilies) that I’d planned to put along the fence in the backyard.

I really don’t see how I could have done it differently, though. I wanted the bulbs intermixed so that the yard will look less like a formal garden and more like a splurge of flowers in a field, and so it pretty much all had to be done at the same time.

I planted lots of tulips and daffodils. Anemones. Snowdrops. Crocuses. Dwarf iris. Larkspur. Grape hyacinth. Aconite. Bluebells.

And I planted hopes and dreams. Dreams of a lovely yard come spring. Hope that spring will in fact come, that the bulbs will flower, that I will still be here, that I will continue to find joy in the little (the best!) things of life.

(The photo was taken this morning and shows the frost on my field of hopes and dreams.)

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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.

Holes!

I dug holes yesterday. Lots and lots of holes!

I’ve been told (and I’ve read) that one needs a plan when gardening, and my plan was to plant as many bulbs as I could as quickly and as easily as possible. There’s no real design to my holes — I just dug where it was easy to dig; if my shovel hit a hard spot where I planned to plant, I moved to another spot where the soil was softer. I don’t really care if there is any discernable design. I just want some color mixed in with the mostly brown grass. Also, once the flowers die and the leaves turn brown, the whole thing can be mowed, which seems like an interesting idea.

I’d gotten a bit carried away when ordering bulbs, and as it turned out, for the holes I dug, I got the right amount since the holes were big enough to house more than one bulb.

Of course, now my muscles are stiff and my throat sore, but it’s good to have it all done.

Now it’s a matter of waiting for spring to see what I have wrought!

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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.

Nest Building

I’d been counting the days until it got cool enough to start planting the three hundred spring bulbs I bought. The instructions said not to plant until the highs were consistently in the mid-60s or cooler, and today was supposed to be the day. A couple of times during the past weeks I’d almost given in to the urge to start plant, but considering what a non-green thumb I have, I figured I needed to give those poor plants the best start possible.

So I waited.

After a few unexpected (and lovely) eighty-degree days, the temperature did drop today as forecast, so I got all gussied down and went out to play farmer.

And then the winds came. Severe winds.

Being stubborn, I didn’t let a little — or a lot — of wind force me inside, but I postponed the precision work of planting the bulbs for another time. Just as well. The guys who’d put up the fence hadn’t yet finished burying the bottom of the chain link fabric, and they’d left the dirt they were going to use piled in the middle of front yard where I’d planned to plant. So I raked leaves away from the fence and moved the dirt — shovelful by shovelful — where it belonged. Then I gathered up the leaves, and smashed them to use for mulch.

Such excitement!

I’m laughing to myself. A friend made a remark the other day about certain blogs that said nothing important (she wasn’t referring to mine; she hadn’t known I had a blog), and well . . . I sure hope she doesn’t read this one. Talk about nothing important!

Not important in the grand scheme of things, that is. The job was very important to me — to be outside despite the wind, to work physically, to accomplish something. To continue building my nest. And that nest building, of course, is the most important of all.

It’s taken me my whole life to get to the point where not only could I own a house but that I wanted to. And anything I do for my home is a way of honoring the house, and me, and the painful journey it took to get here.

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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.

Classes!

I’ve been taking a once-a-week porcelain painting class. It looks like I’m much better at it than I really am because we used a pattern. Basically, all we did was transfer the design and paint it.

Still, we learned some skills particular to porcelain painting, such as mixing the paint (the paints are mostly minerals and come in tiny little vials of colored powder), preparing the brush, and making simple brush strokes.

Unlike any other sort of painting, porcelain painting uses only one side of the brush, and the strokes are always downward. After each application of paint, the project is fired in a kiln then lightly sanded to remove any roughness, and another layer is added.

It was supposed to be a six-week class, but the teacher is willing to continue. The next project might be a Christmas ornament of some kind. Should be fun!

Without a pattern, I am not much of an artist, as you can see from this silly goose I did at a gourd painting class.

Do you see a pattern here? Once there were dance classes, now painting classes! (And birds. I just realized both art projects are birds. The trumpet vine was by design rather than a coincidence.)

Although the porcelain class is instructional, the gourd painting class wasn’t. We chose a gourd and a pattern if we wanted, and did our own thing. Since this gourd was obviously a goose, that’s what I tried to paint.

Since I don’t like having a lot of things sitting around gathering dust, I thought I might spray the goose with polyurethane to make it waterproof and then find a place for it in my as-yet-unplanted garden.

Now that’s a class I would like — a gardening class! I am a try-it-and-see gardener, and mostly, I don’t see anything in my garden, but I am hoping that at least a few of the 200+ bulbs I ordered will flower next spring. I already received some of the bulbs. They were supposed to be sent at optimal planting time, and this is not optimal — it reaches eighty or beyond. The instructions that came with the bulbs say not to plant until the weather is consistently below 60˚ and that won’t happen for at least another month. By then,  the weather will be cool to do all that digging.

Meantime, there is porcelain painting.

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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.

Happy Decimal Birthday to Me

A decimal birthday is any birthday that can be evenly divisible by ten, and though it can refer to yearly birthdays, a decimal birthday is most often counted in days. The more zeros, the more significant the decimal birthday, such as 10,000, 15,000, 25,000.

When I discovered my father was going to reach his 35,000th day, it seemed so significant, I created a party for him.

Today is my decimal birthday, one of the significant ones (though many thousands of days away from 35,000). I’ve been trying to think of something special to do to celebrate, then I realized I don’t need to celebrate the day. The day itself is a celebration, as is any day I am alive.

I’ve always tried to make each day special, particularly after Jeff died. (Before that, every day was a celebration because of his presence. Even the days that weren’t particularly pleasant were worth celebrating because we were together.)

The worst of my grief was a sort of celebration — a celebration of life, both his and mine. The grief was proof that he once lived, that I once loved greatly. Every day I lived through the agony and angst was a day of triumph because I did live through it. Those days were of such heightened pain and sorrow that ironically, I felt more alive than any time since. And that, in itself, was a celebration of sorts.

My celebrations (and triumphs) are much less cosmic today than they were during my time of grief, but still, each day is a celebration — a day that is mine to do with as I can. (I was going to say to do with as I wish, but so often, life does not grant us such wishes, but it does grant us the ability to do something.)

I’ve been spending my most recent days alone. Not lonely, just alone. And that is a celebration in itself, a boon, since the non-loneliness was a long time coming.

During all the years of grief, I had a hard time reading — I couldn’t handle books that feted death such as thrillers because I’d had enough of death, couldn’t handle books where two people got together in the end because I didn’t have that, couldn’t handle two people not getting together because I did have that and knew how it felt. But I’m finally past that time, and have reverted back to my youth when reading was like breathing. Something I did without thinking. In fact, the local library had a summer reading program for adults, and I was the big winner.

I haven’t just been reading, of course, because now I have the house, and the house needs attention. Each little project has definitely been a celebration. I never expected to own a house, never even wanted to, but here it is. And here I am.

Some of the projects were simple and fun, such as painting a boarded-up garage window to look like a window.

Some of the projects have been simply fun, such as ordering bulbs to plant in my front yard this fall. I’m not sure how much fun it will be to plant all 200+ bulbs but, as I have learned, a lot can be accomplished little by little. Besides, there is no better way to celebrate life and hope than to plant flowers.

Until then, there is today — a special day because it is a day that has been granted to me. To all of us.

I hope you will take a moment to celebrate this day.

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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.