I did actually plant these vinca. I believe they were deep fuchsia at the time. Over the years they escaped captivity and started trailing through the yard on their own. Their bright color, which must have been bred in, faded over time to this pale pink with white star in the center.
Growers go to a lot of trouble to breed special colors and designs of flowers, but many revert to their original nature over time. One species of red verbena I put in years ago carried a label warning that propagating the plant was against the law. Really? Plants propagate on their own. Did the grower mean to suggest that they would prosecute a flower that dropped seeds?
I never got to see how that story ended because the seeds from the red verbena didn’t sprout, while the native purples keep coming up in surprise locations on their own. And now my fuchsia vinca has gone rogue.
The pale pink and white looks to me like stubborn courage. The plant was bred to flower in mardi gras pink, but its true nature was much more subtle and delicate. There was no suppressing that nature, no sustainable way to give it pompoms and a megaphone, when it has a quieter disposition.
If there is some different way you think you should be: more social, more helpful, more independent, you can work at that for a bit. Over time, though, you too are likely to revert to your true nature. Maybe you are not that social, and you need a fair bit of alone time. If you can accept who you are rather than spending effort becoming someone you are not, you will have a lot less on your to-do list.
There is already a lot on your task list because you are taking care of others, not just yourself. Think about someone who does not have it totally all together, how you accept that person as he is without trying to fix him. You can do that for yourself, you know. Aim your compassion today at yourself. Accept your nature without fixing.
Most of the cactus pears have dropped to the ground or been eaten by this time of year, but in a few sheltered places they remain. You may know that several parts of this cactus are edible. The deep burgundy pears must be rubbed against something to clean off the spines. Then they can be sliced and eaten raw in salads. The cactus pads also have spines to be removed, after which they are sliced and boiled for a few minutes till tender. They are served in Mexican dishes, sometimes with eggs, as nopalitos.
This prickly combination of tasty food surrounded by sharp spines calls to mind something my older sister once said. I was having a difficult time and wracked with indecision and self blame. “If only I had done everything perfectly, then I would not be in this situation,” I told her.
She said a few simple words that shined a bright light on my situation, “There is no path with all of the good stuff and none of the yucky stuff.”
Those few words still shine a light on my path. There is no way to redo the past so that you avoid the difficult circumstances you are in without gumming up something you find really valuable and sweet about your life. There is no perfect you who never makes a mistake.
This process of fumbling along doing the best you can, which is sometimes not all that good, is just how it is. My sister’s words helped me forgive myself for my errors in judgment, for the ways in which I had harmed others, for the countless imperfections bulging out at every turn.
I am sharing her wisdom in case you too are weighted down with self blame. Forgiveness is a process, including self forgiveness. Today is a day to come to peace with the things you didn’t do and the things you did do that you wish you could fix. Write them down in private. Read them aloud. Say out loud, “I forgive myself for putting my little sister in a refrigerator box and tipping it over until she cried” or whatever things make your list. Forgive yourself out loud for every item on your list.
The silver green of agarita is a familiar sight in our landscape. This is the winter foliage after a light rain, with droplets collecting in the curves of the leaves. Agarita has a tiny yellow flower in the spring that is a source of pollen and nectar for the bees. Then it forms a red berry that is edible by many creatures including us.
Our community cookbook featuring recipes going back a hundred years contains a recipe for agarita jelly. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making jelly, you can just pop the small berries in your mouth. That’s how the birds and other small creatures do it.
The points of agarita leaves are sharp. Large bushes are so prickly that rabbits and armadillos often dig their burrows underneath. The prickles are useful for discouraging intruders.
Are you finding yourself getting a little prickly? Instead of pondering how you can be nicer and sweeter and less prickly, consider the benefits of prickles. Your prickliness might help you defend yourself against intrusion. Your prickles might defend someone near you. Prickles might be what keeps some tender part of you safe. That is how it works for plants, and we don’t ask them to shed their defenses.
Show yourself the same grace you would show an agarita. Figure out what your prickles are good for. Usually we get prickly when we are defending ourselves or someone else. If you are growing prickles, good for you. You must need them.
The locks around the Bossy Spa are just good enough to do the job, but no fancier than they need to be. This is the lock on the paddock where we feed the horses. We clip the rusty metal gate to the leaning cedar post.
The aluminum gate you see at the back opens into a covered area where the horses and sheep can take shelter from rain. The paddock where we feed them is to the right.
Despite the simplicity of this setup, it is pretty secure. The horses haven’t figured out how to unlatch the lock, which is not a given. It didn’t take them long to figure out how to open a fancier latch purchased from the hardware store. We learned of their creativity when we saw them coming down the street toward us on our way home. That panicked scramble is another story for another day, but suffice it to say this lock is good enough.
Imagine our surprise this morning when the horses showed up in the front pasture this morning, the other side of the gate. We investigated to see what had happened. Same story as the time last year when the sheep got out. We had left the gate open.
We all like to feel secure. It can be tempting to arm our life with complicated locks, a moat, a drawbridge, and retinal scanning devices, but the truth of the matter is we are all quite vulnerable. Nowhere is it promised that we will be safe from harm.
Years ago I read Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron, an American buddhist nun. Paraphrasing a thought from that book that stays with me these many years later: Visualize yourself hanging out over the abyss, held by the thinnest of threads that could break at any moment. Now come to peace with that.
Vulnerability is our situation. We do what we can to ensure a secure life. We may save money toward retirement. We may take steps to exercise and eat healthy foods. But every person who has ended up as a caregiver knows his vulnerability, knows her ineffectiveness in keeping her loved one safe from harm.
There is nothing you could have done better. There is no better lock you could have installed to make this not happen, dear one. Really there isn’t.
Isn’t this emu gorgeous? I am making a habit of screeching u-turns on country roads. Our neighbors in the next valley now have an emu walking in their hayfield. I don’t know why he is there, and he didn’t know why I was there either, with my phone propped up on the fence as he walked closer to investigate.
From my encounter with this emu I learned that an emu can be taller than a person, which might depend on the emu and the person, but this bird was certainly taller than I am. He was curious and conducted himself with apparent dignity and intelligence. When he made eye contact, I got the sense that somebody was at home in there.
The day of this picture it was cold and wet. You can see the dampness on his feathers. Underneath the umbrella shape of top feathers were puffy down feathers, and he seemed warm and not shivering. Birds do shiver when they are cold, if I remember correctly from when I had a parakeet. Anyway our emu was weathering the Texas winter with aplomb.
The emu is native to Australia, but he seems pretty well adapted to dealing with conditions in Texas. I don’t know whether he was plucked from a nice Australian life and dropped in a hayfield near me, or whether he was bred nearby.
You might have some empathy for him, since you too were plucked from a perfectly reasonable life and dropped unceremoniously into the role of caregiver. No one ever says on the first day of kindergarten, “What I want to do when I grow up is take care of a terminally ill person whom I love.” Yet that is what has happened to you.
You didn’t choose this life, but you choose to stay with it. You have not run away, but have stayed, whether from bravery or cowardice matters not at all. You have chosen to stay and to care and to tend, and your loved one is better for it.
You may criticize yourself for not being an even better caregiver than you are, but you might have walked away entirely. Some people do, you know.
Forgive yourself for all the ways you are not your view of the world’s most perfect caregiver. Whatever compromises you have made are not shortcomings of your person or character. They are what you must do in order to be the person you are and still stay.
My new phone can get wet! Apparently it is made to go underwater because the most frequent reason that people gave for needing a replacement phone was they dropped it in the toilet. Imagine all those awful toilet drops resulting in the goodness of a waterproof phone.
I wondered whether the camera would still work under water, and I knew you wouldn’t want a picture of what is in the … well, never mind. I headed down to the creek.
This picture is the result of my setting a ten-second delay on the phone, clicking the shutter and quickly submerging the phone in the creek. There is no time to aim, and the fish head for the shadows as soon as there is a splash. They got used to my silly splashing and after awhile some stayed for the photo shoot.
I have been looking at this creek for ten years, and am amazed to see what is under water. It is like a whole new world, all fuzzy and green. This got me thinking about what things might be in my world that I might see with a new perspective.
I remember when I was caregiving for my aunt who had Alzheimer’s, the assisted living facility asked her about signing a medical order to prevent her from being resuscitated if she were to die. I didn’t want her to sign it and told the administrator that if everyone in the facility were to die I wanted them to resuscitate my aunt first. My aunt picked up a pen and signed the order saying, “When your time is up, it’s up.” She clearly knew what she was signing.
On the surface my aunt was confused about bills and names and faces, but underneath she was crystal clear about life and death. She knew what she wanted. It mattered to her, and she stepped beyond her limitations to weigh in.
It is hard to know what lies beneath the surface when someone you love has a terminal condition, especially if they are mentally compromised. Maybe like my creek, they are teeming with life in there, but it just doesn’t get to the surface. Maybe the life does break through to the surface, like it did when my aunt signed her documents.
Since you can’t know, and you are the one making the decisions, you are just doing the best you can for yourself and for your loved one. There is no perfectly right path. Today you are to forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made and for the ones you will make in the future.