It’s Hot. I Know It’s Hot.

It’s hot. I know it’s hot – at thirty-two degrees it is almost as hot as the summer days ever get in Calgary, this city in the long shadow of the Rocky Mountains.  Standing barefoot on the lawn, dead heading petunias already spent from the heat, I get a whiff of the strong perfume of a peppery wild geranium in the still air. blue delphiniumsIt’s quiet on our city street.  A sparrow chirps and then there is just the beat of a sprinkler keeping a newly planted berry bush alive next door. And now there is the sweet drone of bees discovering my blush pink roses. The peace, the myriad of scents, the calm energy of nature alive with intention these are the soft blessings of summer. But it’s hot – oh so hot. 

 

I rally myself in the heat to remember the long winter that drags us down. Beads of sweat are at the nap of my neck and I leap across the too hot sidewalk but, “Come on, think,” I tell myself, “of all those days relying on car heaters, and scraping angry pebbles of ice from the windshield, cursing that I’d left gloves in the house. Just remember wanting to skate but how it was too cold to skate. So I’m roasting now – big deal,” I go on to no one but myself, recalling all too plainly staring down heaps of snow on cars, and walks, and piled against front stoops and how I had trouble imagining this too brief summer – with the landscape so locked in winter’s breath. 2014-01-13 15.03.29

“Buck up,” I tell myself as an ice cream truck plays it’s jingle somewhere in the neighborhood, and I resist complaining of the heat that glistens on my brow. best splash park Trying to think ‘summer’ my inspiration is to call my daughter and offer her girls a trip to a splash park, “Pitter patter, let’s get at her,” I’ll say, but first I’ll fetch a dish to pick the ripe red cherries reachable from the shade of an apple tree, and feel the wonder that is this country that after six or seven months of cold, cold temperatures – still bears remarkable fruit. cherries

Ah – Summertime – Sweet, Sweet Summertime.

It’s June 23rd. The days are long but we’ve past the very longest day of the year – which might make me melancholy – accept I’m forever mindful of that schools out schedule, and so feel that summer stretches before us still, in all it’s short sweet Canadian glory.  apple blossoms

The apple blossoms have faded but the peonies are still blossoming and hanging their lovely heavy heads. yellow peony

It’s disheartening to know they will droop and scatter their generous petals soon but in a few days the garden vegetables will be ready and my favorite – the raspberries – will follow.

 

One of my earliest memories is of picking raspberries beside my grandmother in a magical patch of juicy red sweetness that absolutely enveloped me.

raspberry summers

And there will be days and nights at the lake – kayak and canoe trips sliding over the still water, swims at sunset and campfires after dusk. rose swims

 

 

Evenings with family or friends gathered around an outside table slurping up the sweetness of peaches and cream listening for the call of a loon on the lake and seeing flashes of fireworks on another shore. girls play

So the longest day has come and gone but summer is only just begun …

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.

nanny's yard picnic

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.

nanny and roses

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 )

seeds in garden

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

Raspberry Love – The Blog Post

 

When I was a little girl, younger then eight, my grandparents lived on a farm far down a rural road with a long, long driveway leading up to it. They raised cows, chickens and pigs, I think – it’s hard to remember what exactly I remember. I do recall that I told my grade two class about that farm for ‘show and tell’. I always wanted to bring a treasure from home to show, but my mom convinced me that their farm, where she grew up, was special enough to just ‘tell’.

   There were two aspects of the farm that I was enamoured with – one of these was that my grandparent’s farm in mid-eastern Alberta in 1966 didn’t have running water. All of the water was collected from a pump that ran into a trough, far down a sloping hill from the house. We bathed in a steel tub in the porch with water heated on a pot on the stove.

nanny and roses

   The second subject I choice to tell my grade two class about was the raspberries. Back when I was a little kid we never, ever would have bought raspberries from a grocery store during the limited season that they might have sold them, because when we made the five hour trip to my grandparent’s farm the bright red jewels grew in vast abundance in a field of bushes laden with the sweet fruit. The August sun would be hot on my head as I passed between the bushes, my mother and grandmother nearby, and I was in my own version of summertime Shangri-La – watching my small cup fill, even though I popped as many into my mouth and the berry juice sparkled on my tongue.

raspberry summers

     My grandparents left the farm in 1967 to retire to town. As a young adult I drove my mom back to the property and was shocked to see the driveway was short, the water pump was actually conveniently quite close to the house, and there really wasn’t much of a slope to what I thought of as a hill, at all. My mom and my small kids and I, pushed our way through a tight caragana hedge to get to the empty run down house – diminutive in size as well. We pried away a loose door knob as a odd keepsake and crept back through the hedge. The raspberries, however many there might really have been of them, were ploughed away.

But my grandmother had dug up and transplanted those fertile bushes into her town yard and it was that summer that I asked her if I could take some back to mine.

   My grandmother is gone now. I don’t know if the berry bushes still line her back fence in that far away town, but they grow in abundance at the back of my yard. This weekend I cared for my two small granddaughters – years away from grade two ‘show and tell’. The smallest one, not even two yet, was nonchalant over raspberries in her highchair, but I took them for a short walk, that they might remember as a hike, over the grass to those berry bushes and she literally cooed in delight at finding them underneath the heavy branches, while her sister filled a tiny cup.

“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

March. 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. A close. 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 neighbour 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.

easter 2012-ish-26

How Winter Tiptoed Up and Slammed Me On the Head

Image I was a victim of seasonal denial. Sometime before Halloween I was saying – “Wow, this is amazing.  It is actually seven o’clock at night and it is still sorta kinda warm out.”  Not only that, I was marvelling at the display of radiant red and orange leaves glorifying the trees.  And being a really slow learner, I left the rake out in a pile of garden debris and wandered away from the task at hand mid-job to enjoy some frivolous distraction.  Then I decided to wait for another equally sunny day to finish the job, refusing to go do it the following chilly afternoon with a forecast of snow.  I believed autumn would go on and on and on. 

So it did snow – a gentle flurry of fluffy flakes, and I watched my neighbours’ set their yards and decks and lawn furniture in order through my livingroom window.  “Silly them, don’t they know there is always snow on the Eve of Halloween and this will pass, the sun will shine and melt all this fluff that they’re making a fuss about.” Image  

Wrong-o Daddy-o.  Yesterday I bought bananas and then realized I now had to venture home instead of making a scheduled stop unless I carried my bananas with me, because otherwise I’d be poking them onto a stick and eating them as a frozen treat as it was seventeen below – the temperature at which bananas and milk and other squishy and liquid materials freeze.  I pulled out of the grocery store parking lot and passed by a mound of snow three times the height of my vehicle, plowed into a mini-mountain that cars could park in a hap hazard fashion all around.  The lost yellow parking lines  would be covered with hard packed snow until spring.     Image   

 

Image  It was time for boots and gloves and travelling with survival gear in the car – a tin can and matches and a fat candle. Yes, winter had crept up on me and was clearly knocking me on the head – my rake would be leaning against the fence until the next calendar year and the hose, frozen standing up in the shape it was in when I twisted it from the tap, would stand that way until March. Yep, this is winter.  And we’re deep in it.