A Magical Backyard Garden – My Inherited Mom’s Day Gift

Mother’s Day and the Gift of the Backyard Garden

Vibrant little green peas, the smell of carrots with specks of soil still clinging to them, earth with the aroma of green onions – the promise of the backyard feeds my soul. Every May the calendar days around Mother’s Day and my internal genetic calendar push me to turn over my tiny plot of soil, buy a handful of pretty seed packages, and tuck their contents into rows ready to water.  It’s a tradition passed on to me from my mom and her mother, like colouring Easter eggs around Good Friday, and picnics on a blanket on a warm summer day.

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On Mother’s Day when my four kids were little and excited to make me a tray in bed with the most delicious passion-filled luke warm pancakes, overcooked eggs, and bowl of Captain Crunch, I would elicit their dad to help me sneak pass them because always at that time of year the empty garden spots among the blossoming trees were just begging me to prance around on the dewy lawn and be lifted up by the best work I know. I’d run back to bed for my tray of child-love when it was ready.

My mom taught me the simple beauty and deep satisfaction of the vegetable garden. It was her favorite work too. She has five children and I have four. Raising a family is chaotic and chore-filled, and raising a garden takes you into another space for a short reprieve from groceries and laundry, meals and cleaning, ferrying little ones from here to there. Somehow in the garden you find time to dream a little dream while kneeling in the soft grass with seeds in hand, pushing aside an earth worm, thinking about how the summer might go, of people standing barefoot picking peas, or biting into the strawberries the squirrels don’t steal. It’s time away from time.

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I joke with my family that, “It’s all going to be okay. I’ve got the fall harvest in,” when in reality my eight by six foot bed of vegetables only supplies a few colourful meals and delightful raw snacks, not like my grandmother’s farm garden that was needed for survival ‘in the early days’. Still after retiring to the luxuries of town, my Nanny, an image of independence, planted a back yard garden; hills of potatoes and squash, rows of beans and peas, carrots and beets, circled by cornflowers and raspberries, and she did that until she was ninety-four-years old.  It’s my inherited Mother’s Day gift, from my mom, and her mom to be drawn outdoors with a reverence for the sun and the soil and the magic ability that nurturing the earth has to calm and sooth us, to take us to a sweet spot every May of hope and inspiration.  (Discover more at Amazon.com )

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“The Earth is Like A Child That Knows Poems”

Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems.” – Rainer Maria Rilke.

March. March, March. The word sounds like spring. Like hope. Like the smell of thawing earth. The smell of renewal and something you can taste coming to an end. That was the way I began one of my most ‘liked’ blog posts. I’ve puzzled over the popularity of that post that was a simple tribute to spring, but I must have done so wrapped in the warmth of summer, or delighting in the first blanket of snow changing a dull brown yard to a magical white one, because if I’d thought about it at this stubborn time of year I might have grasped why it garnered so much attention. Its easier to understand its popularity today, and yesterday… and all the frozen days before – in this winter that refuses to give up its grasp.cherub

As a collective my friends and family and even strangers around me are pleading that this March weather let go. The temperature rises from minus sixteen to minus eight and we want to cast off the heavy coats we are tired of, to turn our faces toward the afternoon sun ever so hopeful. There are still piles and piles of snow to melt before the hardiest crocus has a chance of pushing out of the earth. So maybe not this week or next but soon the words of this long ago well ‘liked’ post will come into play again:

easter 2012-ish-11Spring with a promise, just a promise blowing in the wind, of buds pushing out of the ground, of light cleansing rains washing away the sifting dirt of winter, of a neighbor reporting the sighting of a good luck robin, of a hard crust of snow melting in an afternoon, the winding hose left out during a late October blizzard appearing again. Birds sing in the morning and sound lighter, water drips off the roof and a cat meows in heat. I swear people too are more animated, slightly off balance with the extra light and sense of coming out of the dark, having made it through the long nights. March – skip past us, deliver us to the newness of another season.

Do You Remember the Feel of Bike Pedals On Bare Feet?

Remember long July afternoons  when you were maybe, say ten? I do.  I can sit on the front steps with the sun on my face today and recall sucking on homemade orange Tang popsicle while I plotted the rest of my day. Or sharing secrets with a friend in the park, both of us perched on big wooden swings, our feet scuffing in the groove in the earth below us. Or how about being sent off walking to swimming lessons with my siblings, with our underwear rolled in a towel and a quarter for the locker.  Or the jubilation of the hottest nights when my dad said yes, to the sound of the ice cream truck.

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For all of that late July is just the most languidly indulgent time of year. Schools long out, and summers in full swing. The never ending winter is almost forgotten – not like in the crisp days of late August when you can hear it whispering again, “I’m coming, I’m coming.”

But now the afternoon sun heats the sidewalks and bee’s and cricket’s sounds make me lazy and nostalgic for days when I rode a bike in my bathing suit – helmet-less in the days before safety rules – and sometimes even barefoot. Do you remember the feel of bike petals on bare feet? You had to slow down your ride by bumping over the curb and onto the lawn. Or how about summer vacations and roasting a hot dog over a fire that someone else was managing – your bare bug bitten legs hot from the flame, your butt cold from the night temperatures. You couldn’t eat the hot dog fast enough cause after it came the marshmallows – gooey and likely burnt. And if you didn’t bother the grownups around you too much, you could run off after that into a sandy tent or cabin bunk and read Archie comics, or share some giggles with a friend or cousin before you were shouted at to go to bed.

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And so I promise myself on this hot July vacation morning that I’m going to just float in the lake and watch the blue sky, and not chastise myself for this weeks calorie ridden snacks by doing laps from the dock to a buoy and back. I’ll skip the Archie comics and barefoot biking, but I’ll bring out the new bag of soft fresh marshmallows and perch by the fire, immersing myself in a moment in time under the full moon. Which reminds me that the shooting stars of August are coming. Ah August and beach blankets spread over a grassy slope for falling star gazing. Okay – August then is very fine

…if you’d like to read more of my writing check out the book Text Me, Love Mom – available at http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

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This Mom – my daughter.

This Mom.

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Mother’s Day is supposed to honour our moms but I also want to thank my eldest daughter – the mom that has brought so much delight to my life and filled my arms with first sweet babies, and now little girls.

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I have so much respect for my daughter’s calm, quiet way with her children. Sometimes I can’t keep my grandmother/mother mouth shut about “do this or try that”, but really and truly my first child to have children is such a graceful, smart, giving mother, evidenced by her two adventurous, creative, caring small daughters. And I thank her for sharing them with me, always the best part of my week.

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So the last Text Me, Love Mom Mother’s Day quiz question – what message does the mother in the book text to her children at the close of the final chapter?  Thanks to all those who have had fun with my quiz, I’ll send a signed copy to the reader with the most correct answers in the comments section.  And to you all – Happy Mother’s Day.

 Honouring the Mother of A Good Man

How in this Mother’s Day week could I not mention the mother of my husband – the woman who raised him and his siblings and taught them to be the good, kind and strong people that they are. My mother-in-law has an ultra-adventurous spirit and unlike me, who has called the same city home for most of my life, she has followed her urges to shake things up and change – if not cities and provinces, at least houses. Yesterday I spoke of the gardening gene passed from soul to soul from my grandmother. My husband’s mom is a brilliant artist and this talent has come to life in my daughter and even my small granddaughters. From the three-year-old to the eighty-year-old you can’t hold them back from their creativity, bent over their canvases  all of them can fill an afternoon creating vibrant and wildly imaginative masterpieces, comfortable to focus completely on their muse. thumbnail_FullSizeRender (1)

 

So the question for the Text Me, Love Mom quiz today is:  Where has Zoë moved to when her nervous mom thinks, “What I feared, of course, is that she would move in with a shoddy bunch of eccentric artists who had gone far beyond body piercing, wouldn’t even have parents, and would hardly let me darken their doorstep.”

Answer in the comments section.  The person with the most correct answers this week will receive a signed copy of Text Me, Love Mom, Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – available from Amazon and other online book sellers.

 

Gardening in the Dark

You know how it goes, you’re making a nice place in the soil for the Sweet Pea seeds you’re going to pick up tomorrow, while your husband plays the banjo on the deck (mine anyway), from there you decide to clean up the delphiniums shoots, imagining their bright blue flowers as you go, and then it’s on to placing the metal rings into the ground that will soon support the fancy big peonies.  A little bug has slipped into your tall glass of water where you left it beside a yellow tulip, and when you step into the house for your pruners to clear the old wood from the raspberries you glance out and see that dusk has fallen over this spring night. And now you are gardening in the dark just for the love of gardening.

It was Nanny, my Grandmother, who graced us with these gardening genes. Her offspring feel her presence with our desire to slip our hands into warm soil, and arrange fresh new shoots, to imagine the future of lacy blossoms, letting go of our worries and losing pieces of time creating green spaces and bright bursts of colour.  So it is that in this Mother’s Day week I’ll dedicate the second quiz about my book, Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys; One Empty Nest, to Nanny.

For you smarties that answered yesterday’s question so quickly I’m making this one a wee bit trickier.  The reader who gets the most questions correct this week gets a signed copy of Text Me, Love Mom sent to them.  So – can you tell me where teenage Lily was when her mom sent her this message, “I do it as much for the brief (in this country) results, as for the relaxing pleasure I get from the work.  It’s hard to explain …but playing in the garden does feel, in the same way that writing does, like a time away from time.”

If you haven’t read Text Me, Love Mom – it’s a great Mother’s Day read about that stage of life when kids leave home and families get their balance again – available from Amazon and other online booksellers. Happy Day. thumbnail_IMG_1227

A toast to American Thanksgiving and Kids Coming Home

In honour of American Thanksgiving and the tradition of young adults coming home for the first long weekend from college, I wanted to share a glimpse into our household during the Canadian November reading break and the first time my eldest returned to the noisy house of siblings she’d left behind.  So I give you this from Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – only the nest wasn’t empty yet – just reeling from the departure of the eldest…

And so we had Zoë with us for her short fall reading break.  On the Friday and Saturday nights the house filled up with family and three or four of her best friends.  But Sunday, close to dusk, each of my four kids trickled back home from separate outings.   From upstairs I could hear them talking softly in the living room.  Coming down I found them in the dark – the boys showing their affection for their sisters in their odd boy way.  They had dog piled on Zoë and Lily.  It was reassuring to witness them that way, like a big pile of puppies heaped on top of each other.

One of my few friends with children older than mine had warned me that Zoë would have changed.  “I know it hasn’t been long,” she said, “but trust me, she’ll be different, more grown-up.  You’ll see.”  I had been nervous.  I didn’t want her to change, or even grow up particularly.  I would still rather spend a small part of my evenings driving her to piano lessons or to her girlfriends’ houses instead of e-mailing her in Vancouver or fighting for phone time with her long distance boyfriend.  But my friend was right.  My eldest daughter was different.  Oh, she didn’t have a total epiphany or anything.  She didn’t say, “Mommy I’ve realized how burdened you’ve been looking after us four kids.  Put your feet up and let me vacuum up the nacho crumbs before I massage your tired shoulders.”

But she was different.  I noticed that the first evening she was back as we lingered around the table after dinner, bombarding her with questions. It was a look on her face, a quality it was hard to put my finger on, except to say that she had drifted away a little bit.  I had gazed around the room at the others, Cole and Hudson and Lily, and imagined us all reuniting after future ventures.  Zoë swore that she would travel to the far north someday, being captivated by the notion of a trip to Yellowknife of even Inuvik, whereas Cole insisted he was going to snowboard in the southern hemisphere in Queenstown, New Zealand.  Hudson was harder to pin down –I think he aspired to travel back and forth in time, and back then I wrongly viewed Lily as a home body.

christmas bird-1In the upcoming Christmas season I would be happy to imagine them all staying put.  I was going to pretend for the three weeks that Zoë would be home that she had never left.  We would decorate a too tall, slightly lope-sided tree together and Will would insist once more on putting up the pissed-off looking angel Zoë made in kindergarten.  I wanted it to be a holiday season full of my kids dog piling on top of one another, and watching Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, all of us singing aloud to the Sisters’ song –

All kinds of weatherWe stick togetherThe same in the rain or sunTwo diff’rent facesBut in tight placesWe think and we act as one[1]

I intended to encourage Zoë to humor Lily and I, and come skating with us on the lake near their grandparent’s property, after which we three would go for steamers, before coming home to whip up a batch of date-filled butter tarts for Christmas Eve.  She’d be impatient to go hang with her friends, (who would happily devour the butter tarts), but I hoped I could convince her to indulge us with a skate around the lake first.  I’d ask, but I promised myself to be a grown-up about it and not harass her to join us – just to ask.  She needed time to reconnect with her same-age peers.  At ages eighteen and thirteen my daughters couldn’t really act as one, but I knew that on Christmas Eve they would raise their voices together and happily sing about it.wooden santa

You hear it both ways.  Some people say girls are easier than boys.  “Oh, no, no, no,” others will tell you, “boys are easier”.  I’m not sure what exactly easier encompasses.  Easier to get along with?  Easier to discipline?  Easier to lose your mind worrying over? I do know that when Zoë went off to study art at Emily Carr – I thought a mother must only feel this out of sorts once.  But a year later I had to launch, as they say in those swishy mother circles, her exuberant brother, Cole.  Kids being kids, no two alike, and all that, there was hardly an ounce of knowledge I could borrow from Zoë leaving our nest when Cole decided to follow suit…

Happy Thanksgiving from your Canadian friends and if you want to read more of Text Me, Love Mom and the rest of all that …please check out http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

[1] Berlin, Irving. “Sisters.” Lyrics. White Christmas. The Movie. 1954