Garden of Weedin’

I was outside this morning clearing out weeds and dead annuals and digging up Bermuda grass in preparation for fall planting (lilies and chrysanthemums) and transplanting (New England Asters), when I happened to look up and actually see the garden I was working on. I do see my various gardens, of course, but I tend to focus on what I need to do or what I am actually doing — focusing on the not-so-pretty things, in other words — rather than the gardens as a whole.

It could be that this morning I was looking at the garden from a different angle than I normally do because I was standing in the middle of what was, just a couple of weeks ago, a mishmash of dense grass, weeds, and wildflowers. But whatever the reason, today I really looked and it astounded me to notice that this particular area is becoming something of a garden of Eden instead of the garden of weedin’ that I’ve been dealing with.

I wasn’t the only creature out and about this morning, enjoying the lovely day and the lovely view — a black swallowtail butterfly flitted from flower to flower, so focused on drinking nectar that it didn’t even seem to mind that I was standing there taking pictures.

There seems to be a dearth of butterflies in this area of Colorado, so seeing one is a special joy. It also makes all the effort to create a garden even more worthwhile — not just something for me to do, not just an excuse for me to go outside, not just something to look beautiful, but also something that is worthwhile to other creatures, too. (Though to be honest, I could do without the grasshoppers. Prejudice on my part? Perhaps, but the truth is, they are extremely destructive beasts, eating 50% of their body weight every day. They supposedly eat 25% of available forage in the western USA. And, in fact, they ate absolutely everything Jeff and I ever planted except lilacs and Siberian elms; they even ate entire three- and four-foot saplings, bark and all.)

But this is supposed to be a post celebrating the positive aspects of my garden, not the negative ones. And there is much to celebrate today.


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

Unplanned Joys

Today was a day of unplanned joys. You can’t plan such a day. Well, you can I suppose, but too many things have to come together, and some of those things — such as the weather — can’t be counted on. But today, the weather was perfect. Truly a joy.

Despite the lovely weather, I wanted a change from my typical morning of weeding. Not that the weeds were all gone — they’re not, and may never be gone, though come winter, they should go dormant along with almost everything else. But I needed to do something different, so I decided to clean my house. There was only a thin veneer of dust, but once that veneer was gone, it became apparent just how dingy the floors and furniture had become. But now, what a joy! Everything sparkles like new, or as new as a 94-year-old house can be.

Still charged with energy, I took a brief walk — also unplanned until the very minute I put on my walking shoes and headed out the door. When I came back, a friend came to visit. Admittedly, the visit had been planned. Because of her health issues, I hadn’t seen her for a long time, and we needed to catch up. We sat out in my gazebo, enjoying each other’s company, the lovely day, and the cool breeze. It was great seeing her, and even greater seeing how well she’s doing. (That part was one of the unplanned joys since I had no idea what to expect.)

After she left, I took a brief break for lunch, and then I got a text from another friend who wanted to know if this was a good time to visit. She and the woman she looked after had been wanting to come see my yard and try out my gazebo, but the weather has been a problem — too windy or too hot or too rainy. Well, today was none of those things, and so they finally were able to come.

I enjoyed showing off my yard and flowers, trying (but not succeeding) to disregard the areas of dead grass. I know I’ve said I won’t let those brown spots bother me, but it’s hard not to notice the dullness in comparison with the bright emerald green of the healthy areas. Luckily, my friends only looked at what was there, not what wasn’t.

Before they left, I showed them around my house. Which makes me wonder — did cleaning the house today somehow put all these unplanned joys into effect? Or was it merely a happy chance that today of all days, I felt like cleaning? Not that it matters — it just felt good to know the house looked its best.

And now, here I am, visiting with you. That, too, is a joy, though a planned one.


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

A Welcome Visitor

This was another of those days where I wore myself out, not that it’s hard to do since I am still not totally acclimated to the new season. Or maybe it’s the allergies the new season has brought that are aggravating me. Either way, I begin the day worn out, and it only gets worse from there.

I suppose if I took it easy, I wouldn’t get worn out as fast, but then, when I do take it easy, I still feel weary, and nothing is accomplished. At least this way — spending two or three hours outside weeding, cleaning spring flower beds, and watering newly sprouted seeds — I get to enjoy the order I’ve pulled from the chaos.

And I get to dream of the new flowers that I’ll see in another few weeks.

If I stayed inside, I’d also have missed the sublime satisfaction of sitting in my gazebo, gazing out (because isn’t that what a gazebo is, a place to sit and gaze?) on my park-like yard while I rest my weary bones. I can enjoy the gazebo any time, of course, and I frequently do if only for a short time, but it’s even more enjoyable when the rest is well earned.

More importantly, if I stayed inside, I would have missed the visitation of this beautiful creature that seemed particularly taken with my hanging basket of flowers:

Bees, birds, and feral cats all seem to enjoy my garden, but this is the first time this year that I’ve seen a butterfly, and the first time in a couple of years that I’ve seen a swallowtail butterfly.

I’m hoping it won’t be the last.


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.

What’s Right in Front of Me

Late yesterday afternoon, I was watching the news with the woman I help care for, when I found myself with tears in my eyes. Normally, I don’t let the news affect me, but yesterday it was just too much — too much war and starvation and horror and all the other stories that are trotted out for our dubious entertainment. Thinking about it, I tend to think it was the juxtaposition of people’s fears about what will happen after the recent Supreme Court decision with babies starving to death in Sudan that got under my defenses. Just . . . too much.

People who are involved in any those news stories have no recourse but to deal with their trauma. Since I neither have to deal with it nor can do anything about it, today I steeped myself in localized, life-affirming actions — tended to my flowers. Though is it actually life affirming if I am pulling weeds? In my own small way, I am deciding what gets to live and what has to die, so perhaps . . .

I don’t know. Perhaps I should stop thinking and just enjoy the color that pops up in my yard.

Surprisingly, despite the onslaught of weeds and the gone-to-seed spring flowers, there is still plenty of color, and with any luck, there will be a lot more as the summer progresses and the seeds I recently planted decide to come up.

I’m sure more of the flowers I planted in May will flower when I get around to weeding and clearing the grass from around the greenery. It’s simply a matter of taking the time to do it. Best of all, when I do such hard work, I’m not thinking of anything but what’s right in front of me.

And that’s as it should be.


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

Sadness and Gladness

Today was a strange, rather unsettling day. It started out fine. I did my normal morning routine (tarot reading, exercise, Wordle, Quordle) then wrote the note to my friend overseas. I sure was glad to have that small accomplishment out of the way! It’s been niggling at me for the past two months.

On the way to the post office, a friend who was driving by pulled over to chat. I was saddened to hear that her husband had passed away. It’s always hard to get such news, but harder for us who have been there (as opposed to those who haven’t had to deal with such a loss) because we have a good idea what the one left behind is going through. We also know there’s nothing we can do or say to make things better. Each of us has to learn to cope the best way we know how, and to learn how to live alone. That sounds cold, I know, but it’s the bitter truth. Still, I feel sad for her and all that she’s going to have to deal with in the coming months and years.

After she drove off to do her lonely errands, I continued to the post office. I was glad to discover that I could walk normally up the ten or so steps to the post office door. It’s a far cry from being able to hike up eighteen flights of stairs as I did when I worked in a downtown Denver office building (so long ago that it was the tallest building in the city), but ever since I damaged my knees, I’ve had to climb stairs the way a small child does. One foot up and then the other foot dragged up to the same step.

I was glad to discover that the postage to a European country is relatively cheap — only twice what it is to send a letter domestically.

I was glad that this was such a nice, cool day that I could get my errands done and still be able to do some weeding in my gardens.

All those things I was glad about today seem paltry in comparison to the sadness of death and a friend’s grief, but still, I was glad, which is why today was so strangely unsettling.

But that’s life, I suppose — the sadness and gladness all jumbled together so we never quite know how to feel.


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.

Weeds and Weeders

I got a new long-handled weed digger. The first one I had was advertised as tap root weeder. The prongs closed over the root when you stepped on the lever, and then you yanked the whole weed up, root and all. It worked well until the handle broke. (The handle came in two pieces that needed to be screwed together, and the weeder broke at the break.)

This new weeder I got is better built. The handle is a single piece, and it has a release button to push the weed out of the prongs. The only thing I don’t like is that the prongs don’t close. You just twist the tool once the prongs are in the ground, lift up, and release. It seems to work okay for most weeds, but I’m thinking of getting another weed puller like the first one I had since it was better for tap roots, though I would make sure the handle is one piece.

I’m also mulching with my grass clippings since my mower mulches the grass as it cuts (in other words, it cuts it into small pieces rather than leaving the grass blades long), so I’m hoping that will cut down on the need to weed, but so far, it hasn’t worked. The weeds around here are tenacious and laugh at my attempts to keep them from growing.

With my luck, I’d invest in another weeder, then the weed problem would clear up on its own and I wouldn’t need either weeder. I used the phrase “with my luck” ironically, meaning I have bad luck, but the truth is, I have good luck (that’s how I ended up here in this house — good luck), so it seems as if investing in a new weeder would solve the weed problem once and for all. Either I’d have a weeder for any type of weed, or I’d have no weeds and two unnecessary weeders. I know which one I would choose!

Oddly, some parts of my garden areas that were overgrown with weeds last year seem to be fairly weed free this year. I’d dug up all the weeds last fall when I cleared out the dead flower stalks, so perhaps that helped. Or maybe they are waiting to gang up on me in the heat of the summer when I really don’t feel like digging weeds. Other garden areas, of course, seem to have more weeds this year.

But that’s part of gardening, right? Figuring out what plants you want and how to keep them growing, and figuring out what plants you don’t want and how to keep them from growing.

It’s all about learning, and learning is one thing I’ve learned how to do.


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.

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.

Plots and Plots

I’m reading a book with four subplots — or rather four co-plots since none of the plotlines seem to have more importance than any other. That’s not a problem. I can keep four different plots in my head. The problem is that all four subplots are exactly the same, only with different names, though too many of the names are similar, making it even harder to distinguish the various plots. Each subplot has a bad-guy group and a good-guy group chasing each other with frequent pauses for a fight. The good guys want something the bad guys don’t want them to have — some sort of knowledge about a plague originating in ancient Egypt. At least, that’s what I think they want. Just as I sort of figure out what one group is actually after, the author switches to a different group. I have a hunch he thinks this keeps up the suspense, but all it does is put me to sleep.

Generally, when I get a book that bores the heck out of me, I skip to the end to find out what happened, and then forget it. With this book, I’m afraid that if I skipped to the end, I won’t know what happened. There’s also the possibility that if I don’t skip to the end and continue to plod through four plotlines that echo each other, I still won’t know what happened.

Is it any wonder I am weeding instead of reading?

Today I dug up more weeds, way more than I planned to. The ground had just enough dampness left from the last rain to be crumbly, so it was much easier to dig into than when the ground was sodden (and incredibly easier than when it was dry), so I continued working until that plot of ground was finished.

Hey! Plots and plots! Although I didn’t plan to wrap this blog around the theme of plots — story plots and garden plots — it tickles me that it happened.

I hope I finish the book soon so I can find something fun to read to allow me to sit still long enough to rest up from my outside labors. I did set aside the multiple-plot book for a while and read a single-plot book; unfortunately, that one was just as boring.

Even if the next book doesn’t keep my interest, it won’t matter. We’re returning to 100-degree temperatures (or close enough) for a while, and even a boring book won’t send me outside when it’s that hot.

Besides, I really do need to rest up. Starting next week, the plants and bulbs I ordered will be arriving, and I’ll have to be doing a lot more digging. I’m hoping digging to put plants in the soil will be easier than digging to pull things out, but I have a hunch digging is digging, whether it’s digging into the plot of a boring book or digging into a plot of weed-infested land.


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.

The Spry Age

An older person in a book I’m reading was described as “spry,” which made me wonder if I’ve reached the spry age yet. Although originally the word “spry” meant any lively, energetic person who could move quickly and easily, in my lifetime I have only heard the word used in relation to older folk.

I suppose it doesn’t matter if I have reached the spry age, because even if I’m there, I’m not there because nothing about me, except maybe my mind, can be described as spry. Ever since my knee problem popped up, I seldom move spryly — I lumber more than I walk — though I hope that by continuing with my knee exercises, I will eventually solve that problem.

It’s a good thing one doesn’t need to be spry to work in one’s yard — one only needs . . . perseverance, perhaps. I generally have the grit to do whatever needs to be done, though yesterday, when the day was beautiful and relatively cool, I stayed inside and did laundry and other household chores. Today, when the temperature topped 100, I went outside to water and weed. Not the smartest use of those two days, so maybe I need to rethink that spryness of mind I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Still, spry or not, I managed to decimate a bunch of weeds. I always knew what the phrase “grows like a weed” meant, but now I have almost daily proof. Even though we haven’t had any rain recently, the weeds are doubling in size daily. Today I had to wrestle with weeds that were thigh-high, though the last time I was out, they were only slightly taller than my ankles. Luckily, digging up weeds needs a good shovel more than spryness.

I did find a few surprises in my yard. Gladiolus. Marigolds. And another daylily!

I planted these flowers, so there shouldn’t have been any surprises. The surprise comes when something actually blooms. I plant the same things in the same general vicinity so the soil is the same. I water them the same. They get the same amount of sun, but, for example, of the five gladioli I planted, only one grew enough to bloom. So, that was a surprise.

I’m getting off the topic of “spry,” which is probably a good thing. I’d rather think of growing flowers than contemplate my growing lack of spryness.


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 Morning in the Sunshine

I pulled more weeds today and I discovered that the problem with weeds is not so much that they grow back, but that it’s a never-ending job. All I was going to do was pull the most unsightly. I figured that once I did that, the others wouldn’t look so bad. Well, that’s not the case. I cleared away a large patch of weeds, then stretched and looked around, thinking to congratulate myself for a job well done, but the place looked just as bad as before I started to work. Apparently, once the highest weeds are gone, the second highest, which seemed rather benign, now stand out, so the yard looks like I never touched it.

Isn’t that always the way? You think the house is clean, so you decide just to pick up the worst of the clutter. Then, with the clutter gone, you notice dust, so you have to dust the furniture and fixtures. Then, with the dust gone, you notice that the floors look a bit dingy in comparison. So then you have to clean the floors. Next thing you know, a job you thought would take a few minutes has taken all day. Even worse, you now notice every speck of dust, so you spend all your time from then on, spot cleaning because although you know your house is clean, you are so focused on the dust motes that you can’t see the truth.

That seems like a parable more suited to some mystical or psychological or sociological problem rather than weeds, but I’m so exhausted from all the time outside that I don’t feel up to finding the wisdom in this blog post. It’s enough for today that I spent time in my yard.

And I saw a parade. Today was supposed to be the annual town festival with booths, entertainment, and a parade, but it had to be canceled because from what I understand, a lot of kids in the high school tested positive for The Bob. Someone decided enough was enough and so privately sponsored the parade, which I think is cool, sort of a celebration and a protest all in one. There weren’t many entries, and most of those were police cars, pickup trucks, and farm vehicles. Not many people watched either, but it’s the effort that counts.

So, some weeds gone, a parade, and a morning in the sunshine. Sounds like a good day to me!


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.