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Magnolia

Magnolia

Great harbinger of spring, the saucer magnolia tree is covered in blooms. They will last for several glorious weeks unless we get heavy rain. The weather gurus are predicting a storm tonight, so I will get all the pictures I can today.

Saucer magnolia isn’t the great big southern magnolia with huge white flowers and stiff leaves, dark green on top and fuzzy brown on the back. It is a delicate small tree that blooms on bare wood at the end of winter. When we put it in fifteen years ago, the landscaper brought me the other kind of magnolia. No everyone understands how much the varietal matters. I held my ground, and now I have this beauty. I suppose some people feel that particular about what brand of clothing they are wearing, which strikes me as silly, but as you know subspecies of plants matter.

I was traveling this week, and when I returned the dogs rushed out all wagging and smiles. After the dogs this tree was the first thing to greet me. It is a bit showy and attention-seeking, but I will forgive it since it is just so beautiful. It gives off a delicate scent too, which is wafting over me as I sit beside it and write to you.

Today I wish I could sit beside you, talk about what is on our hearts, make you a cup of tea, and give you a real hug, instead of this digital one. For now, though, that is not to be.

Instead I send you this beautiful photo from the yard so you will have a thing of beauty to remind you how much you are loved.

Worthy

Worthy

You might wonder whether this silly little flower in my loropetalum is even worthy of a photo, but I like it, so here it is. Worth is an odd idea anyway. What is it that makes something or someone worthy of love or friendship or appreciation or photography?

We differ a lot in what we find worthy. There is probably someone who photographs cars and finds them a worthy subject: classic muscle cars, antique roadsters, and Formula 1 racing cars. I take pictures making an effort to be sure that cars don’t appear in them, with the exception of one rusty truck here.

Since there is no absolute measure of who or what is worthy, we can make our own private decision. Consider then the matter of whether you are worthy of love. On the one hand you might think not. After all, you know better than anyone else that you are flawed. You are not always kind and supportive. You are sometimes short-tempered. There was the time you said the thing that was almost true, but not quite. You never returned the gizmo you borrowed and promised to return. A list of your flaws or mine would be a long one.

On the other hand I love the chaotic tumble of weeds in the yard. You love your dog, who has never returned anything she borrowed on account of eating whatever that was. When we think of people and creatures we love, we see how worthy they are.

I don’t know why we see how lovable others are and see our own unworthiness, but this imbalance can cloud our vision. We need others to remind us that we are worthy of love. It seems something we cannot do on our own.

Maybe you know someone who is struggling, burdened with caregiving or health trouble or grief or financial difficulty. Choose one person and remind them today that they are worthy of love. This is my reminder to you.

Clay

Clay

The view from this bluff above the creek bed looks down on a most unusual sight. The sheer creek bank contains a large patch of red clay. Normally our soil is a sandy consistency and chocolate brown color. The dirt in the fields and flower beds is brown, and the dirt all along the edge of the creek bank is brown, except right here.

The old well log from our water well not a quarter mile from this spot details the composition of each layer of the subsurface down to 538 feet. Not one layer shows red clay. It is peculiar how this deposit shows up right at the bend in the creek and nowhere else on the property that we know of.

I don’t have a good enough grasp of the geologic processes to explain how depositional layers can contain patches of substances not found nearby, but I looked at a soil map for our state.

What I noticed is that different soil types occur in swaths, like a patchwork quilt over the earth’s surface. Our geologic formation, the Edwards Plateau, is close to some areas with red clay soils.

Somehow the soil migrated, possibly carried by the water in the creek bed, since it is deposited at a bend in the bank. I now have this startling red clay area, a spot of yang in the yin of the cool brown of the remainder of the creek bed.

The surprise of this little bit of one thing in the middle of the other thing reminds me how organic things are not uniform. They do not consist all of one thing and nothing else.

We may be mostly nice, but sometimes spiteful. We may usually like to relax, but sometimes work really hard. Our life may be mostly joyful, with some deep sorrow right there where the path turns. The lack of uniformity in our character, in our environment, and in our experiences adds interest and variety. It makes hard times more bearable.

Today may be a hard day. You might have a scary confrontation with your mortality or may mourn the diminishment of your youth and beauty. Amid those hard things, may you find a surprising splotch of joy, like the hand of someone who loves you holding yours through the hard parts.

Garlic

Garlic

Gifts from someone else’s garden are the best. You get something in your yard from a friend, and they are no worse off for having shared with you. Every year when the plant returns you are reminded of this friend and his kindness in sharing something from his garden.

We have about ten clumps of elephant garlic coming up. Each clump has as many as a half dozen individual plants. I put them in three years ago when a friend brought over a bucket with a clump of garlic and dirt inside. I divided the bulbs into cloves and planted them in a zigzag pattern, so their gray-green foliage would make a fluffy edging for the area. The first year they didn’t do much, and I left them alone. The next year they came up again, and I harvested the bulbs, cured them and ate them. I didn’t leave any bulbs in the ground and I didn’t plant new ones, so I was surprised to see them coming up again this year.

I remember now when my friend showed them to me in his garden he said they leave behind what he called “acorns” that look like garbanzo beans and seed for the next year. I had forgotten this, but now they are sprouting in the yard, so he must have been right about that.

I had previously tried to grow Italian garlic that I ordered online, but it quickly figured out it was not in Italy and died. This garlic has a humble local origin. My friend originally found it in an open field and brought a clump to his garden. He later subdivided that clump with me. I love the abundance in that imagery, something freely gotten and freely given, spreading comforting aromas in multiple kitchens years later.

Today you receive something free that multiplies on its own, the love sent with this note. As you find worthy recipients, scoop some out and share. Yours will still grow bigger, and if it dies, others can give you back what you gave them to start love anew.

Peace

Peace

Our horses, Barkley and Magic, are almost always together. If one comes in for dinner without the other, this is sufficiently rare that I go looking for the other one. When Barkley was sick, Magic was never far from him, and when I walked in the back pasture to check on him, Magic would run over to show me wherever Barkley was lying down. They have been friends and companions for fifteen years and even though they have their tiffs, they are inseparable.

Horses are herd animals by nature, so they are more comfortable in a group. Being part of a herd makes them safer in the wild. They are also social creatures, who show affection by grooming one another. A herd of horses is emotionally connected in ways we cannot fully explain. If a herd is grazing and one horse sees something scary, the fear seems to instantaneously infect the herd, and they all run, like one organism distributed into many bodies.

We human families can work like this too. When something affects one of us, we all feel it. When our loved ones are sick, we stand by them when the doctor checks them out. When one is sick or joyful, all the family members mourn or celebrate.

What horses are best at is just being peaceful. If they don’t need to graze or work at something, they can peacefully hang out under a tree, enjoying the shade and one another’s company. We humans are not so great at that. We resemble human doings more than human beings.

Inner peace is contagious, just like fear is. Sometimes when I am bustling about from one thing to another I go stand with the horses. Their inner quiet infects me. They stand beside me until I too am calm, then walk off.

Today is a day to cultivate inner peace. Close your eyes. Imagine these two huge gentle horses beside you. Feel the calm energy emanating from them. They have an abundance of peace, with plenty left over for you.

Cozy

Cozy

This photo definitively answers the world’s least asked question. What does it look like to stand between two miniature donkeys? The answer, as you can see, is it looks pretty darn cozy. If only someone would ask you this today, you are all prepared. Don’t ever say the Bossy Spa is of no practical use.

When I stepped between these two ladies, they didn’t mind, as I had been scratching their heads for awhile, so they knew I had no ill intent. They also knew I wasn’t there to feed them, so they let me step between them, their warm, wide bellies pressing against my legs.¬† If the problem is cold, a couple of donkeys could be the answer.

These are two of the three donkeys you met here. When I visited them our neighbor told me more of their story. He got a call from a woman who had owned them and given them away. When she went to visit them in their new home, there was not enough food or water. She was worried, but couldn’t take them back.

My neighbor brought a trailer and roped and loaded four of the five donkeys and brought them back to his place. He wasn’t able to rope the fifth donkey, but he knows that someone later went back and got that one. He has four, one male and three females. You haven’t met the male yet.

These two ladies are usually shy. They won’t come up to the fence if I have the dogs with me, but in their own home with their owner nearby, they are brave and friendly.¬†They had been eating the hay you see on the ground, but they discontinued breakfast to visit with me.

Their bellies are so wide that the neighbor first thought they were pregnant. You can imagine how much he needs more donkeys. Somehow, even though they socialize with the male, they have not had babies the last four years. Wide bellies are just part of their charm.

I love the striping down their backs and over their shoulders. These markings can be found in horses too, and are considered primitive markings, from an ancestor common to all the equine species. These stripes are often accompanied by horizontal stripes on the legs, called zebra bars.

These common elements across different species are reminders of how we are all made of the same things and share common origins. If you go back far enough we share common ancestors with all people. If you go back even farther we share common ancestors with all creatures.

Even if you are in an isolated town, caregiving with such intensity that you rarely leave the house, you are not alone. You may have a sister from your same parents, who loves you from far away, but don’t despair if you don’t. You can go back a little more into your history until you find your brotherhood and sisterhood with all living things.

Caregiving can be lonely. You don’t have much time to build and maintain relationships, but we humans are social creatures, and we need at least some contact with other creatures.

Today you are warmly embraced in the family of all living things. If you are lonely, step onto the porch and listen to the birds for a bit. You don’t have to send them email or call or comb your hair before you see them. They are just there because they are your neighbors, and we are all family.