Diagnosis Confirmed: Thinning Problem

Before you call Rogaine or sign me up for the Hair Club for Men as a special exception, let me clarify.

I knew this diagnosis was coming.  It was just a matter of time before I would display any symptoms.  When they finally showed up, they were more painful than I could have ever expected.

You see, I’ve found that I have a problem with ‘thinning’ the seedlings that have just sprouted in my vegetable garden.  To date, I have followed the instructions on the seed packets very carefully.  I diligently planted the seeds evenly (spaced with almost ruler precision if instructed), covered them with ¼” of fine soil and tamped it down carefully.  Just as the seed packets had instructed.

My beautiful (albeit DENSE) row of newly sprouted radishes!

However, now they are instructing me to ‘thin’ my seedlings as they reach 1” in height.

And it is painful.  I almost can’t bring myself to pull their little green sprouts from the rows.  They lived too, you know.  They worked hard and sprouted just like the others, why do they have to lose their hard-earned spot in my row of vegetables?

Why can’t they all just live and produce beautiful vegetables in my garden?   I know the obvious answer to that.  If I want my radishes to have any sort of radish root, I understand why it is I need to be thinning them out.  But that doesn’t make this task any easier.

Peas!

As I knelt down to carefully inspect them, I found myself comparing them like a judge at the county fair:

“This one has a notched leaf.  This one is smaller.  This one lacks uniformity.  This one isn’t quite as strong and green.  This one is not in the straight line of my row.” 

It worked for awhile, this thinning by what I’ll call “Natural Selection according to KT.”  But soon, I couldn’t see any differences in my beloved little sprouts.  They were all equally strong and equally green with equally perfect leaves.  I was quickly left with only the strong, and the picking became decidedly more difficult.  And I had made it about an eighth of the way across one row.

This ‘thinning’ project was definitely going to take longer than I had expected.

I also have to admit that it felt a little disconcerting to be that deciding hand, the final authority judging my poor little surviving sprouts, the ones I had so lovingly planted.  The ones that had made my heart skip with joy when I saw them first sprout delicately out of the garden soil.  Having the ability to grant life, and decide death wound up being a little harder than I expected.  And we’re just talking about radish seedlings here, folks.

Are there things in your life that need to be thinned, like my row of multiplying radish sprouts?  Sometimes it’s not easy to part with things.  Especially those things that you’ve toiled with, that you’ve fought for, that you’ve grown, encouraged and protected.  Emotions like pride and a sense of accomplishment can hold us back from the ‘thinning’ that’s necessary.  Without a little ‘thinning’ here and there, we are allowing those things to take over, pushing the other things in our lives aside.  By letting them sprout and prosper are we allowing them to eventually take over in the gardens of our lives?

‘Thinning’ is difficult, tedious work.  But just like my baby radishes that will swell and thrive with the new room for their roots, you may find that you are granting a little more space for the good in your life.  You might be giving your hopes and dreams just the room they need to take root and provide you with a bountiful harvest.

My darling row of radishes: BEFORE.

My darling row of radishes: AFTER (I think I made a little progress, don’t you? Now just another inch to go between them!)

Needless to say, my first attempt at thinning, didn’t go as easily as instructed on the seed packets.

Maybe it will just take a few more attempts by this amateur vegetable gardener.  Pulling a few more spry sprouts out at a time, until one day, my row will look like it has finally been thinned to perfection.  Let’s just hope I get the job done by July.  In the meantime, I’ll be poring over their little forms, looking for any slight bend, weak leaf, or yellowing stem.

Prelude to Summer

The first to bloom were the purple irises in a large clump.  From chiffon-shrouded buds, they curled their purple petals open, revealing a hint of glimmering gold.  They stood tall, their grape fragrance catching you just as you passed by, causing you to look again, surely that grape scent hadn’t come from them?  But it had, and as a slight breeze carried their fragrant symphony delicately forth, the bees buzzed and hummed, enjoying summer’s first taste of song.

Then it was a tight ball of a peony bud, bursting open with its huge, single petals as if proclaiming, “Look at me!  I am the first of the peonies, none can surely be as magnificent!”  And they may not be, because nothing is as amazing as that first peony exploding into bright bloom in the garden, no matter its color, its size or its type.  From atop strong, tall stems, my first-born peony of the summer looks across its counterparts in the garden, crowning itself with a golden center of bright stamens.  And nothing quite prepares you for the disappointment as its concerto quickly fades and one by one its petals lose their grip, and flutter to the ground.  Their beautiful interlude just a memory, as its dark petals stain the rocks pink with morning dew.

From tight-coiled cones, my white allium were next on stage.  Their stems swelled and swelled until one morning, feathery white headdresses emerged.  Theirs was a soft minuet formed with the slight scent of an onion and chive-like stalks, waving gently in the breeze.  And their small clumps throughout my garden performed long-blooming solos in white.  The only white blooms in my garden, they warrant a standing ovation for their brave deviance from the bright colors that take over later in the summer.

Without intermission, an heirloom yellow shrub rose performed a final, golden overture among its deep green, glossy leaves.  The morning sun’s light setting their petals aflame. In an instant, they seemed to go from bud to bloom to flailed petals, scattering on the ground below.  A brief, yet lovely, sonata of color, fragrance and thorns.  Here now, gone tomorrow, nothing but a golden dream blurred sharply in our minds.

There are certain times in life where the work just must stop, the music must be heard and the world’s most beautiful moments must be applauded.  The weeding could wait.  The watering could wait.  These were times to look over the first of my blooming bounty, cherishing the very magnificence of an iridescent, silken petal tempted open by the sun’s warm encouragement.  This was a time to watch in wonder as butterflies descended from windy heights, swirling madly, but somehow ending upright atop a pollen-encrusted bloom.  This was a time to feel excitement like goosebumps on my arms, for the magical, visual sound that is just beginning, each new bloom an instrument, only just refraining at the final stanza of their prelude.

And as all these instruments of a springtime garden came together, a late spring orchestra culminated in one grand crescendo, diminishing back down with sweet, soft notes . . . promising a symphony yet to come.

The Place Where One Thing Leads to Another

It started with just the seed of an idea.  The mere thought that maybe I would like to try my hand at vegetable gardening – this being inspired by just recently discovering the tastiness of fresh kale. And an inspirational article in Country Gardens about a young lady who began a garden basket program that provides fresh, heirloom produce for her community.

The wheels were turning, albeit slowly and unpersuasively.  I just wasn’t sure.  My “friends”, the deer, would no doubt appreciate my efforts, enjoying my newly sprouted delicacies in the dark of night.  I’m crushed when I wake up to rose buds sheared off, imagine how I’d feel if I lost an entire row of ruffled lettuce, or worse . . . a just-ripening squash with a single deer bite taken right out of its perfect middle?

More than just these fears was the bigger question:   Was I even CAPABLE of growing vegetables?  Indoor houseplants have long been banned from within my house.   I can hear your gasps now.  Somehow, I fall victim to the over-watering trap, I preen on them too much, water too frequently and apparently drown them in my overzealousness.  So the question remains there in the back of my mind, will I even be able to get these tiny seeds to grow and eventually produce things I can eat?

As these questions circled around my mind, and as I was still “researching” (and by researching, I mean: attempting to talk myself into just trying a vegetable garden) my father showed up at my house with six heavy planks of wood and a plan.  Thank goodness for dads and plans.  Before I even had another minute to talk myself OUT of it, we were measuring and cutting, the sawdust was flying.

What had started as simply an idea to buy a pre-fabricated raised bed cheaply online, had now turned into a full-fledged DIY, Pinterest-worthy project.  There were ninety degree metal plates to measure, cut, and then grind.  Then there were holes to drill in the metal pieces with a drill press. (And YES, I do know what a drill press is now and how to properly use one!)

There was even concrete to pour!  Suddenly my little idea had become a little disconcertingly permanent!  There were holes to be drilled in the wood, bolts to be tightened, and even a level was making frequent appearances.  Heck, it’s probably a good thing my Dad DIDN’T know the very un-perfectionistic plan I had in my mind to begin with!  Believe me, it probably wasn’t going to be level, I know that!

After my now-perfectly-constructed raised beds took shape, there was topsoil and compost to bring in.  And then gravel to lay in next to them.  And a fence to construct to keep my “friends”, the deer, out.

But I can’t blame all this on my Dad.  I started adding things to the once-little, raised garden bed idea too.  Suddenly, a few vintage, rusted culverts seemed like they would be the perfect spots for herbs.  And the side of the old shed, seemed like the perfect canvas for a little artistic creativity.

Our lives sometimes lead from one project to another, without much time in between to relish in the blessings of the here and now.  But isn’t life really about a series of do-it-yourself improvement projects both within and around ourselves?  There’s not always a professional to call.  Sometimes it just takes sweat, a little elbow grease and a small spark of an idea to prompt a change.  Every day is a new chance to embark upon a DIY project in our lives.  To do what we want to do, to give what we can give, to help how we can help and to change those things that need to be changed.  There’s still time to transform your life, to create something new while having the powerful ability to remember the “before” pictures.  As difficult as they may be to look at, they will be there always, telling us where we’ve been and reminding us just how far we’ve come.

In your life, too, one thing will probably lead to another and another.  Each day will probably give you something new to work on.  But with the hope of the “after” picture in our minds, these daily, internal DIY makeovers are possible.

Finally, a few days ago, I stood looking proudly over our hard work and feeling excited about the possibilities (and being finished.)  That’s when my Dad showed up.

Next on the to-do list?  Trenching a brand new water line to my garden area.   My mind instantly began swirling with future calls for line locates, trenching machines, a dug up driveway, orange water pipe and the dream that I could have a water faucet right there IN my garden, no green, kinked hoses necessary!

And so, this is the story of how one thing led to another, and another, until I ended up with something that perfectly completed my backyard.

Now, for the hard part . . .getting these veggies to grow.

And so it begins . . .

It finally arrived.  The day I’ve dreamt about for the past six months.  The moment you whisk through the doors of a plastic-encased shrine to all things budding and blooming.  The warm smell of fragrant, green-leafed humidity and rich, perlite-dotted soil envelopes you immediately, fanned around you lightly by huge metal blades whisping slowly at the other end of this inverted half-pipe of flora and fauna.  An array of pots beckoning you, enticing you with bright colors, textures and opportunities and the unequivocal instant emotion of hopeful inspiration.

There is just nothing quite like that first deep breath of the summer season inhaled in a greenhouse.  That moment when all things seem possible, even the deep burgundy-robed miniature calla lily hidden in the corner, out of sight of its much humbler Zone 4 flowering neighbors.  Who’s to say how its exotic beauty even made it close to this place, with delicate blooms not well suited for Colorado’s cool nights and short summers.  Maybe it hitchhiked, escaping its hot, humid home, catching a free ride with a delivery van undiscovered, destination unknown.  But somehow, at that moment, even this tropical variety seems do-able.

The possibilities are endless.  As are the trips up and down the aisles.  Slowly surveying the wondrous displays of seeds, turned seedlings, thinned and transplanted, fed and fertilized until robust, with blooms stretched upward as if arms waving at you boldly, saying “Pick me!  Pick me!”

And the competition is stiff.  Pinks, yellows, reds, purple, orange and even blue.  Tall, short, bold, delicate.  The bright eyes of the almost-neon-bright geraniums follow you carefully up and down the aisles, the queens of potted annuals keeping a close eye on their rows of supporting actors.  The sweet, faces of pansies smiling innocently, nodding at you as you pass.

Bright marigolds, uncurling their ruffled arms, laughing happily in deep oranges and yellows.

White bacopa and periwinkle lobelia trail down their pots, following you, begging you to take them with you.

As I scoured the rows over and over today, not so much undecided as simply admiring the beauty, the fragrance and the first of this summer’s blooming bounty, a light mist of small raindrops began tinkling lightly upon the clear plastic roof over us.  Summer’s first sweet orchestra, playing gently and rhythmically, lulling me to wish I could sleep if just for a moment in this perfect place among the flowers, awakening later to their fragrant harmonies of color and the scent of freshly fallen rain.

But today, the afternoon will have to be enough.  I will leave what remains in the care of the fluttering butterflies and sphinx moths, carefully wafting from one flower to the next.

May you enjoy the first of summer’s blessings and embrace the hope of the nearly endless possibilities it offers.

Where the Metal Meets the Dirt

I found them earlier this year.  Paint peeling, marred with scratches and gouges, scarred with rusty scabs, I knew they would be perfect in my little country garden.

I like to think it was manifest destiny, a magnetic pull that brought me to their hiding places two states away.  Trapped within a rusty boneyard of repurposed old metal, I saw through their neighboring junk and felt myself mesmerized by their rough, rusted beauty.  Although still winter, I was already dreaming of their scrolled curves flanked by green leaves, the sun glinting through their open filigrees, a flowering vine creeping carefully up their metal spines.  I knew their home would be my garden.

So after patiently waiting in my dark shed all spring, a few weeks ago they saw their future home for the first time.  How they sun must have quickly warmed their cold metal as I brought them into my slowly awakening garden.  We moved them here.  Then there.  And back.  Until I had found the perfect angle in that far corner of my garden.   They were perfect, just as I had imagined.  They were like long lost friends that I had stumbled upon, not realizing it was garden destiny.

That day we sliced the warm dirt apart with a pick, digging a thin slit in the ground to anchor the heavy weight of its frame.  And as we carefully tamped the dirt down around its base, there was a magical moment when my red scrolled gate stood on its own, rising above my garden, whispering wordlessly of that enchanting, magical threshold that gates and doors instinctively evoke.  And begging questions like

What is beyond?  Where will this lead? And Where have I been?

Where do your dreams meet the reality of the dirt?  Your dreams, too, may find themselves leaned up against a wall in your shed, far from sight and farther from mind.  No matter the business of life, the errands to run, the schedules to keep, the procrastinated projects pulling at you, they will be there still, waiting in the far depths of your mind patiently.

Collecting dust and being pushed further and further into corners, they will wait.

Until one day you come across them again, still beautiful in their dusty, dirty, abandoned corner.  Maybe you will have forgotten all about the bright hope they once shone in your heart.   Or maybe it will seem like just yesterday when you daydreamed of them constantly, feeling they were just within reach.  Will you have the courage to pull your dreams from the depths, dust them off, and move them around in your life until you find the perfect place within your garden?

That day this winter, with my new finds somehow strategically fitted into our vehicle, my heart fluttered with dreams of terra cotta pots, filled to the brim with cascading petunias, seated happily upon my white rusted garden bench.  Of oversized clematis blooms climbing vigorously up the sides of my red rusted gate.  And of the sense of magic I knew they would instantly ignite within my growing garden.

I couldn’t wait for my coneflowers to open their bright petalled eyes this summer to see their new neighbors.  A dream, small as it was, that came to find its feet planted stoutly in the dirt.

Just a Spot of Sunshine

My cats are attracted to them.

Just a spot of sunshine is all they need.  A shining place to curl up and be embraced by the bright warmth, to be coaxed into a sleepy nap.  They have a knack for finding them —  those sometimes out-of-the-way spots of bright light that have been cast just beyond a chair or up next to a wall.  Or even on top of a turquoise flip flop.

Do you have a little spot of sunshine?  It may be a special place.  A pond lined with cattail bird roosts and fuzzy-budded willows.  A velvety chenille blanket, a mug of steaming coffee and a riveting book.  Or maybe an old truck, rusted on the outside, its aged seatcovers still scented sharply with gasoline and musty sweat on the inside.

Two spots of sunshine, in the form of my nephews.

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Maybe it’s a special person.  A grandson that hugs you with his whole being on legs that never seem to stop running.  A friend made long ago, separated now by years and distance, that you can start up with again right where you left off years ago.  Maybe that spot of sunshine is someone who can make you laugh and giggle, no matter the situation.

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Where are you drawn, like cats to sunny spots?  Where do you go to feel safely embraced with warmth and happiness? What is your little spot of sunshine?

My sunny spot consists of gravel paths leading through slightly raised beds, a blooming haven of bumble bees, hummingbirds and usually a napping kitty or two.  It is a place that feels like home to me.  I built its borders with river rocks, handpicked out of a big pile, leveled edge to edge, to create a meandering free form outline on the very back of my new home’s lot.  I turned the hard clay soil within these river rocks, then hand-screened, shovel-full by shovel-full, new soil to fill them up.  Then I turned the dirt again.

And as I planted my very first bare root peonies that fall, I also waged war on the weeds that had traveled to my new flower beds via the hand-screened dirt.  It was hard.  It was tedious.  But I knew in my heart that one day it would be a sunny spot for me, in more ways than one.

It’s my sunny spot all winter as I peruse my perennial plant catalogs, dreaming of all the possibilities that exist.  It’s my sunny spot in the spring as I watch what started as little seeds of hope last fall, curl a brand new leaf open to the sun.  It’s my sunny spot all summer as I relish in the fruits of my labor.  Flowers blooming, bees humming and beautiful energy rising from its colorful bursts, bouquets of fragrant blooms abound.  And it’s my sunny spot in the fall as I watch my hard working plants slowly cower down to rest, and I plant new seeds, tubers, rhizomes and roots of hope for next spring.

I’ve celebrated warm Friday evenings there with a beer in hand.  I’ve sat on its graveled path, crushed and broken, embraced by only coneflowers, bee balm and black-eyed susans.  Salty tears dripping onto the soil that gives these plants life.  I’ve smiled there and I’ve cried there.  But no matter the clouds in the sky, my little spot is always sunny.

Never underestimate the power of a sunny spot.

Those special places in our lives have the power to give us rest when beaten down. They have the energy to reinvigorate us, to help us rise up and conquer those obstacles we may have in front of us.

The also can have the calm presence to just encourage us forward, slowly, quietly and subtly.  Giving us a gentle hand on our shoulder to let us know we can do it, that life doesn’t always require us to fight with a roar, but maybe to just have the courage to continue on again tomorrow.

Questions Without Answers

Where am I going?  Why am I doing this?  What is all this for?  And should I have the answers to these questions?

If you haven’t noticed by my lack of regular posts over the past couple of weeks, I seem to have come upon a complete lack of inspiration.  The weather is nice, my garden is slowly growing, but I’ve found myself unable to find even the smallest, tiniest tidbits of inspiration throughout my days.  Just last night, the town herd of deer even stole my latest bit of inspiration:  the hardy geranium in my concrete planter that had happily covered itself in fuzzy, new leaves.  Overnight, its beautiful leafed shaped was transformed into an unexpected buzz cut.  All that remains are a few nubs of stems, not a leaf in sight.  Forget a tip for that hairdresser!  So even this, my latest hint of inspiration, was chewed off in the middle of the night as I slept.

One of the things that I’ve really learned by muddling my way through creating a blog is that it has caused me to literally slow down, to remember things, to experience things.  A snowflake on my nose, the smell of wet bales of winter hay, even the recent landing of a sparkling jewel of a winged insect upon my arm one warm afternoon.  But lately, it seems I’m struggling for anything worthy of writing about or sharing with others.  What is my goal?  And, do I need a goal?

All it seems I can offer is a life filled with daily struggles, lessons (hopefully learned), cause for laughter here and there and little seeds of inspiration which can be found always, if you just look close enough.

My Dad asked me the question a few weekends ago and it was funny timing, because I had been secretly asking myself the exact same question of myself the week before.  He asked me what I hoped to get out of blogging and writing, or where I hoped it would take me.  The honest truth is:  I don’t know.  But something is encouraging me, leading me to continue on.   It is pulling me along blindly without that final destination on the radar.  So, I’ve offered it up to God.

It reminded me of something I had read that had encouraged my soul a few years ago.  It was a just a short essay written by The Rev. Spencer Carr entitled, “Who is God Calling You to Be?”  I had somewhat grudgingly read through it, not all too inspired by the title or its introduction.  But something urged me on and in the final paragraphs of the essay, I read words that had a really profound effect on my heart.  The author was in his fifties and was questioning his call to pursue ordination into the priesthood at such a late stage in his life.

“Does it really make sense, I asked, for me already in my 50s, to invest the time (and money!) to become a priest?  And the Rev. Canon Bert Womack answered me, ‘As far as we know, God may be calling you to be a priest for just one single task at one particular moment.’  I came to see that if God was calling me to be a priest, it was just as important for me to say yes then as it would be at any other time in my life.”

It caused me to reflect on the concept that our lives may have many significant moments, but our purpose in doing something may just be one moment at one particular time.  All your preparing, all your living, loving and losing may be for just one, singular moment.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Will you be ready for your moment when it comes?  Will you cherish it, realizing that it was what you had been molded for over the course of your entire lifetime?  Or will you discard it as merely circumstantial?

Your job, your volunteer activities, your recreation, your friends, your enemies all may be preparing you, and even if it is just one moment of opportunity, your life brings you to these exact moments.  It has prepared you to change the course of life, either your own or someone else’s.  It is hard to grasp that a lifetime may be all about one moment, one chance, one opportunity.  And doesn’t that give it the mysterious, and very real potential to slip away so easily?  To disappear quickly without a second’s notice.  To never have even realized that it was the moment you were meant for?

So, as I return from a short little writing hiatus, I may not know where this little blog of mine will take me, or what new friends it may connect me to through the world of technology or who’s heart it may touch one morning as the sun rises but I feel something pulling me, encouraging me to continue on.

 

 

 

“When you feel that inner pull – Go for it!  Be the person that God is calling you to be.  And do it with whatever time and strength you may have left in which to live out your calling.”

Who is God calling you to be?  What is He encouraging you to do each day?  We may not understand it now, but we can have faith He is leading us to a series of moments.  Very important moments, big or small as they may be.  Moments that a lifetime has lead us to and prepared us for.  And a chance to do the very special, unique work He has given us to do.

May you feel encouraged, even when the road is winding and the sun’s glimmer fades to empty darkness.  When you question where the next bend will take you, or wonder why and how you ended up on this rocky, uphill path — Never give up, but know that you are quietly being led where you need to go.  It may not be an easy path, but it is the only path.  And to very special, important moments it will lead you.