Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Plant Ties

Balmy and hazy; a calming sort of day. I would like to throw out the to-do list and hunker down behind a good book or take a long nap. But things need doing and I've been marking them off at a little more leisurely pace, one at a time. This day is unlike the last two days, which have been hot, and it in no way resembles a week ago Sunday, the day my girls and I decided to go to a nursery.

On the hottest day of the season thus far, my girls and I decided to meet for lunch and browse through a nursery. We didn't know it was going to be so hot when we planned our outing. Due to scheduling issues, we celebrated Mother's Day on Father's Day and stood our ground with the crowd. We distracted ourselves with chatter about one thing or another while waiting to order our food in a restaurant without air conditioning. We served ourselves tepid water from glass coolers, devoid of ice, in order to stay hydrated. We sat at the children table, as all other seating was taken, and we visited through the long wait for a delicious lunch.

The nursery next door was the purpose for meeting at this particular restaurant. A hot sun poured heat down over us; though melting, we were not deterred from enjoying the plants, pots and farm animals. Warning signs about the turkey and the cow were photo worthy. Most of the plants were in the hot sun, but behind the farmer's house there was a gazebo and a few trees. We slowed down to enjoy the shade before viewing the succulents. All three of us appreciate plants, but we have developed a fondness for succulents; they are easier to grow here in the coastal desert. As far as I know no one before my generation, on either side of the family, has had an affinity for cacti. With a brother living in Arizona and the girls and I living in the coastal dessert, succulents have grown on us so to speak.

It was a day my grandma would have appreciated: the farm-like setting, drawers filled with seeds to be planted in the dark soil with hopeful anticipation and lots of plants. It's interesting to consider the various things that run in families. Families reproduce behaviors, beliefs, values, interests, mannerisms, genes determining health and longevity, favorite recipes, etc. The list is endless. Their are many things I see reflected in my girls passed down through generations of resourceful, caring women. But on this day it was the love of growing things that drew us back to grandma, the way she tied a straight row with string to stakes at end each of the garden. Grandma, and others like her, are the stakes to which we often find our passions tied. Grandma planted vegetables to feed the family, but flowers were scattered about for beauty; she was a practical woman housing a soft spot for a well put together bouquet.

In my mind there is a memory etched of grandma wearing a simple, cotton dress and canvas slip on shoes bent over freshly turned dirt dropping seeds in anticipation of a summer harvest. She planted, weeded, harvested, snapped, blanched and canned. The joy she took in having flowers is what was most pressed in my DNA. Like grandma, I love a beautiful bouquet. She and I had so many things in common, and a day at the nursery with my girls reminds me of how much I miss her.

After grandma died they found two little calendars like the insurance companies used to mail each year to clients. There were just a few lines for noting events on any given day of the calendar. Grandma had filled those two calendars full of the ordinary happenings of each day: weather, gardening, visitors, births, deaths, spring cleaning, baking, canning, the number in attendance at Bible study and when she hung clothes on the line. I was fascinated by how well documented her days were in such tiny spaces. I identify well with her need to keep track of the everyday things that give life meaning like the photos the girls and I took of our hot day at the nursery. It is interesting how such simple things, the memories we make and value deepen our connection to one another. Roots are deepened in the documentation of the memories.

There are many things I do, believe and enjoy that are linked to my grandparents. It is hard to find a good stopping place here. But I am left with so much fodder for future writings. That day I was blessed to share a similar interest with my girls, one that takes me back to hot summer days under the Elm tree snapping beans and listening to grown-ups talk about the weather. Do you find yourself surprised by shared interests with a relative you barely knew or one you've spent a lot of time with over the years? I would love to hear your stories.

P.S. Laura Ashley Smith, my daughter, gets the credit for the charming turkey photo.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

June Gloom

(Written June 1)

It's gray this morning. Again! In San Diego we have a saying, “May gray, June gloom”. And it has been gray! I sit here wrapped in a blanket. The temperature in my house is 68 degrees and the humidity is 89% and trending upward. People around me, who love being cold, do not notice the humidity; I am sensitive to the moisture in the air – the dampness that takes what could be a nice, warm 68 on a dry, sunny day and chills it down to something requiring a blanket, sweater and leggings. I resist the temptation to turn on the heater this first day of June.

Today I interview for an on-call position; it includes overnight shifts. On this gray, damp, chilly day I am weighed down with concerns of how unfitting this world is for one wired such as I. Yes, we all have to spend a lot of life living outside our comfort zones. In general I tend to be a bit too aware of how I cross wires with the culturally designed models for living. Of course those of us who follow Jesus are certainly strangers passing through; all this is temporary. I am relieved to know the tight-fitting, uncomfortable sometimes hard to bear places I find myself in will one day be left in a heap of dust on this earth while I move about in forever freedom.

So many people face difficult changes beyond anything I've experienced; diseases or events draining all normalcy from the everyday for months and years. Sometimes these experiences require the development of a new normal to be built around the continuous breach in one's life. My anxiety is over something very temporary and yet I dread feeling as if a large chunk of life will be cut away leaving a gaping hole behind in a blur of busyness. I have to ask myself if I am spoiled, or like many others just struggling with change. Change can rock the boat and tip me out of my safe space until I am in over my head and gasping for a few minutes to slow down and breathe; needing to find space for inhaling some calm and rest instead of a vacuum induced panic.

Everyday I find myself drawn to people who remind me of God's faithfulness and His immeasurable grace for each moment and each situation. I leave you with this link to Emily P. Freeman's blog, where you will find encouragement as you go through the kinds of changes leaving you in a gray, damp place of forgotten awareness of His sustaining grace. Look for 7 Days of Still Moments, by Emily P. Freeman.