Category Archives: Transitional Home

The patience of a crocus

If you’ve seen my “About Me” page or spent any time around me, you already know I love to garden. I love the feel and smell of dirt. I love the sore muscles derived from a day of tilling, planting, pruning, and raking. I love the planning, watering, and nurturing of shrubs, flowers, and vegetables. I love the tastes and smells of freshness that can never be found in a produce department. I love witnessing the springtime rebirth of my yard as the weather warms and days grow long. Yep, gardening has long nourished my soul.

This past weekend, I worked hard preparing the yard for its renewal. I raked up the blanket of fallen leaves. I yanked away the withered vines from last fall’s squash crop. I pruned roses and shrubs. I checked garden fencing and purchased manure. I felt the sun warm my back and the songs of birds fill my ears. I celebrated with my younger daughter when our 10 cent goldfish was found still alive in the freshly cleaned pond. I smiled at the 3 yellow crocus huddled in the corner of the yard and listened as my daughter shared with me the order of their arrival.

I love the cheerful nature of the crocus flower. It stands out against the back drop of fading winter browns, smiling brightly at the careful and not so careful observer. So small, yet so bold it appears before the mighty tulip or the graceful buttercup of a daffodil. It fearlessly  blossoms while the threat of snow still looms. It shouts a cheery hello to the trees not yet leafed out. It is a simple flower, captivating in its beauty. Without need for a calendar, it emerges when the ground thaws. Its tiny stature announces the arrival of spring, the season of renewal.

This morning, I awoke feeling agitated, not angry, not upset, just agitated. My skin feels too tight. My fingers tap too hard at the keyboard. There is a river of discontent rushing beneath the surface of my skin. I feel unsettled as I struggle to focus my thoughts and quiet the chaos in my mind. I grimace at the inventory of chores that await me, though I know it is not chores that disquiet me. Life has had its share of upheavals recently, but even those aren’t what gnaw at me. Truthfully, I don’t know what it is, but I do know I don’t like feelings of unease and confusion. Answers offer me peace, but answers elude me. I stare out my office window searching the snow-covered mountains for peace.  I watch the horses graze in the field of the neighbor’s farm. Visions of tranquility and, still, my skin crawls. I push away from my desk… I shake my hands… I flip through  pages of a book without seeing the words. I grow impatient with myself. My pattern is to push through feelings of restlessness, not sit with them. I want to isolate what stirs within me so I can fix it, so I can release it and return to my work. I fail and resume my stare out the window.

My eyes scan the freshly turned earth below my second story window. I see the timbers laying in wait for placement. A lattice made from old sunflower stalks waits for the peas to vine up its poles. A bird perches atop an empty feeder in anticipation. Bird baths stand dry. Trees sway gently in the wind waiting for the young buds to mature into leaves and new branches. The tops of the tulip and daffodil leaves emerge bit by bit as their flowers develop in the darkness beneath. I listen to the water trickling into the pond and the call of a hawk.  Pots have been gathered on the potting table. I hear the rooster crow, a tractor roar and watch a large cow and calf wander out to graze. I let my eyes rest upon the three bright yellow crocus tucked beyond the swing set. There is no urgency in the small flower, no desire to push through the discomfort of another bloom. I breathe in the patience I am surrounded by and release my agitation. 

As my eyes survey the yard, it occurs to me that springtime is more than just a season of rebirth; it is a season of transition. It is that gentle time that moves us gradually from the harshness of winter to the scorching days of summer. Dormant trees slowly bud new growth. Faithful perennials awaken from their slumber as bulbs burst forth from the leaf covered earth. Freshly tilled gardens are prepared for a new assortment of vegetable seeds. Snow can turn to rain and back to snow on a single day.  The cobwebs of winter’s neglect are swept from patios and fresh air blows in through opened windows. Wardrobes transition from sweaters to summer tees, birds begin their nests, and weekends usually include at least one trip to Lowes. Baseball bats and soccer balls return to the fields as children grow restless with school routines. The lazy days of summer are in sight. And still, springtime refuses to be rushed.

From the quiet of winter, new beginnings emerge, but nature does not rush new growth. It patiently waits as the days turn longer and the ground softens. Each plant and creature moves to individual rhythm of transition. Though the crocus flowers early, the Columbine waits for warmer days to bloom. It does not push to flower sooner, impatient with the weather. And, every gardener knows the consequences of sowing seeds before the planting season has arrived. Growth is a process that cannot and should not be rushed, regardless of its discomfort.

When feelings of discontent stir within me, I usually hurry to settle the waters. As I look around my yard, I see no signs of the rushing I feel within myself. I see ease, a willingness to just be in a period of unsettled transition. The early spring bulbs, the budding trees, the empty vegetable garden all mirror this chapter in my life. The bulbs, forever consistent in my garden, share only a brief season with me; the trees prepare to branch off in new directions; and a newly turned vegetable garden sits replete with possibility in its emptiness. Each a special part of my garden, and each in a state of transition. Just as I am.

As I come to the end of this writing, I have found peace. I still don’t know what agitated me this morning, but I trust I will have the information I need when it is time for me to act upon it. For now, I will not force, nor rush. I will just be. In my garden I have a plaque that reads, “In my garden, the answers come.” Very often that is where my answers do come. Today, I learned a lot from a crocus.

Happy springtime, everyone!

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Quiet down cobwebs

I admit I’m not a meticulous housekeeper. I like things neat but do not live by pristine standards. Dusting really only gets done when I expect company or risk a visit from the health department.  After I moved out of my parents’ home, there was an 8 year period in my life when I had a very tidy lifestyle. Those were the days when everything had a place and everything was in its well dusted place. Then came our first child.

With one child, it wasn’t too hard to keep up on housework, especially because I worked from home. I remember when my daughter’s  nursery was kept neat with toys picked up, laundry folded, and a carpet that was regularly vacuumed.  As she became more “mobile,” toys and books might stay out until the end of the evening, but there was always tidiness in my home before I crawled into bed. I had successfully balanced the load between baby, work and dust. 

Almost a month after my daughter turned three, we brought home her sister. My standards of  housekeeping changed when I became outnumbered. It wasn’t obvious; it was a gradual process. It started with an evening here or there when my husband and I were too tired to put away toys. Picture books lay abandoned on the couch until morning.  Diapers were left in the bag, no longer stacked neatly in the changing table. Laundry waited until weekends, and the dust in corners gave birth to bunnies.  I fought the wave of decline. I struggled against my self-imposed and unrealistic expectations .

A year later, relief arrived in two unlikely forms–a fax and a trip down memory lane. The fax, from a friend and new mom, included this excerpt from a poem written by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton called “Babies Don’t Keep”:

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

It has been posted continually in my home ever since. (For the entire poem, click the link at the end of this post.)

However, real emancipation came when I complained to my mom about my messy home. I asked her how, with 9 kids under the age of 11, had she kept ahead of the housework.  She laughed and directed me to check my memory. She said she realized early on that she could choose to have a spotless home, or she could choose to create memories with her children. Because of her choice, I have some wonderful memories, including learning to sew, tending roses together, and a closed-door on the disaster that was my teenage bedroom.

Today, I bide my time until every room in my house might once again be a temple of order. Until then, our teens’ bedrooms remain a refection of their messy childhood playroom with scattered books and piled clothing. Occasionally, when we walk past their rooms, their father or I might comment about “potential fire hazards.”  However, it is only when the piles threaten encroachment on the hallway do we make cleaning demands. 

With older children, it becomes easier to dismiss regular “play”. Our lives fill with “to-do lists,” school, jobs, and activities.  Rare is the day I don’t robotically respond “later” to a request for play. Game night, movie time, or crafting together is often sacrificed to my own  “to-do’s.”  I could transfer fault to my kids, say there is no time for me in their busy lives. “They have their friends…their jobs….their homework…their____________.” But, outside of the chores, homework, and chauffeuring, am I making the time to create memories with them?

The other day, I plucked a framed photo from my dusty dresser and drifted down memory lane. My husband and 2 daughters, caught in a moment of time 12 years earlier, smiled back at me. I sat on the bed, studying the photo, recalling unseen details.  We were taking Christmas card pictures that day. It was fall in California with the grass still green and the sky a bright blue. I wanted a father/daughter snapshot for my dresser. That afternoon, there were giggles-lots of giggles. Their smiles echoed the fun of that day and a time in our lives when making memories was paramount.

I’ve wondered exactly when and why it becomes OK to let play fall off our overbooked schedules. Is play not essential to both a happy childhood and adulthood? Happy memories are treasured gifts we re-open with every retelling. We give them to ourselves, our children and our children’s children. I believe the best memories are created when we say “yes”–yes to a game, a movie, a consuming mess of Legos.  “So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!” I am making new memories, and the teen years won’t keep.

Won’t you join me?

(The complete poem can be found here: http://organicallyinclined.org/2010/07/26/babies-dont-keepthe-poem-has-an-author/ )