Merry Christmas: Here’s to Planting the Seeds of Celebration

Several years ago my husband and I pruned off the old Christmas Eve celebration I’d participated in annually with my family. To some this may seem harsh, but I’m a gardener and am optimistic about such things, because change is good, and it almost always means growth and renewal in a garden.

An unfinished felt cactus ornament on one of the many houseplant holiday trees with our first real Christmas tree behind it.

Gardening has taught me that you can use many of its lessons in your own life and that the values found in each and every one of these lessons can add a rich hue to your life that is as enriching as any organic fertilizer.

Our first vintage Christmas has added immensely to the holiday feeling on our urban street.

Good pruning is about learning how a plant grows, knowing its needs, anticipating them, and then creating a plan to foster the best growth based upon this knowledge.

Playing with more materials.
We can use this system for people too, and performing these tasks on our own lives is commonplace whenever we hit a wall, but I want to posit that you should do it seasonally—just as you would do for your garden plants.

For we also have our own seasons for growth, and traditionally, many of us have grown during the dark winter months in unexpected ways as we plant the seeds of celebration with those we appreciate having in our lives.
The table was set for 14 this Christmas Eve and much merriment was made.

It is for these people we give thanks, and as we celebrate, we support one another. At this time of year we are allowed to close our eyes and let go knowing that we have people in our lives who will catch us if we fall, and they will feed us if we are hungry, or they will give us water if our soil is dry, and best of all, they give us the light we need to survive and to keep going—but we must provide light for them too and you cannot do so if you are not at your best.

First Amaryllis to rebloom. I did it! Whew!

The most difficult part though is that we must reexamine our own lives as the new year is upon us, and we must measure our growth, take stock in our stores, and we must rejuvenate ourselves with a light pruning.

The Amaryllis was much taller this year than last year. 

This is how many of us are able to avoid that gnawing depression which can eat at our roots and rot us to our innermost core. If we do not prune, taking into consideration what is best for ourselves, what will give us the greatest integrity to grow our strongest, we will weaken over time.

My first giant floral installation.

Sometimes you’re the seed that fell upon foreign ground, growing up in an environment that couldn’t allow you to be your best. Often, you weren’t in your best light and you never bloomed much, kind of like a lot of houseplants I know who struggle to do what they can in far off foreign places.

My Christmas Day reading arrived in the mail on Christmas Eve.

Unlike houseplants we can get up though, dragging our weakened roots behind us, and we can wander until we’re able to find the home where we’re meant to grow, blooming repeatedly, living in an environment that no longer threatens our growth.

So this season, if you are feeling a bit alone in the Wilderness, I want to wish you the best and let you know you’re not the only one. I also want to encourage you to dust off your shovel and pruners a bit and revisit what it means to be you. If you’re not ready yet to move on, at least trim off what you’re able to let go of and take a good hard look at your roots. Make the adjustments needed and just like a plant in your garden, return to the problem in a few months time to reconsider your options.

I did it and survived and this Christmas was one of the best I’ve ever had simply because I felt free to be who I really am.

Happy Holidays!

The End of One Season, The Beginning of the Next


This past week I anticipated the anxiety of turning over a new leaf, deeply dreading the departure of my husband for his wine work in California, and somehow, I made it through without much despair. In part, this survival success is due to my better understanding of just letting go, being carried away with the wind, riding that same leaf, to wherever it may land. This new attitude helped me through a lot of socializing this past week, and some very emotional moments.

With only 3 weeks to go until my first appointment with a neurologist, I am keeping as upbeat and as positive as possible. I will only have one foster child on the weekend, and I plan to enjoy all of the little things, while scurrying about with the garden chores between long breaks of rest.

Below is the annual Nigella, or Love-in-the-Mist. Already growing, it reminds me that annuals often do not just appear out of nowhere.

Out of nowhere our fragrant Viola odorata began to bloom before we left for Seattle last week so I harvested it, and my husband processed it for me. They are being used to make violet sugar, so it isn’t anything too complicated, but it is a start. Since I seem to be the only one who really enjoys violet flavored treats, I am sure that this will be enough for now.

After the blooms were thoroughly washed and dried, the green stems were removed and the flowers were layered with sugar in a large glass jar. This is what the process looked like before it was placed back into the cool cupboard. With any luck, I will use it in a dessert frosting for a garden party I have planned for this spring.

Lastly, this is the final Amaryllis bloom of the season. I believe that is called Pasadena, and it is quite large. The foster kids have really marveled at it. Hopefully it is a memory they will keep forever in their minds because it is amazing that something so beautiful can come out of a big ugly bulb in a pot with dirt. If that can happen right before their eyes, who knows what can come out of their situations, right?

Let’s all keep that in mind during our most difficult moments…

Birds & Blooms

Birds are our friends—right? Sometimes though, it is hard for me to describe my feelings about birds. I am married to a bird lover, who has a mother who is a bird lover, and I only discovered in my 20s how much I enjoyed birds too. (My mother never let me keep any pet birds because of their noise and their mess making.) But I am talking about pet birds now, and not wild ones, and that opens up a whole different set of feelings.
The Dude, our old bald Senegalese parrot from the Oregon Humane Society. We adopted him with a female Senegalese we named Pretty Bird. She is now living with my mother-in-law and The Dude moved to a home with an indoor aviary. They were our first therapeutic foster kids since they were older birds who had been neglected and did not like people much. Their anxiety levels were the worst I have ever seen and our cats were traumatized by the whole experience. Parrots falling into this state just breaks my heart. I am happy though that we helped them both by praising their individual talents. The Dude loved to dance and we loved to watch him listen to music. Pretty Bird is much more complicated though. To put it simply, she would make a great old school nun at my Catholic grade school.
We live in the Great Northwest and it is fairly well known that our access to wild birds is really quite incredible. I have travelled and camped in many of the greatest bird watching areas in Washington, Oregon and Idaho and yet I have not done so to watch the birds. Since I am chronically ill, and can sit and watch virtually anything for long lengths of time, none of this makes a great deal of sense. My New Year’s resolution is to work on this and to include more bird watching outings with some of the kids who come to our home as Therapeutic Respite Foster kids. Not all of them will enjoy this activity, so for their enjoyment, and for ours too, we are going to begin close to home with our bird watching.
Last weekend we visited one of the Backyard Bird Shop stores in the Portland Metro Area. I love these stores, and my husband had never been to one, so we took one of our animal loving kids.

If I’d had more money, I would have bought a lot, but instead I chose some basic items: new suet cakes with mealworms embedded in them, gourmet food for the winter birdies, and a bird ID pamphlet for anyone who wants to use it.

I think that  all of these should be interesting for the winter birds, and I plan to let you all know what is popular in the neighborhood. Since we have two very large Douglas firs on our property, and a large park full of adult trees up above us on the extinct volcano, there are plenty of birds hanging out year round. I only want to keep the occupants happy so that they will keep my garden in order.

Lastly, this is my first Amaryllis bulb ever and my first bloom. Enjoy it as you have enjoyed your own!

Hippeastrum “Picotee” aka Amaryllis

PS: For those of you who wanted to see the French King Cake, I was too ill to make one this year, but I have heard that my favorite local French bakery is making them throughout the month of January so I am going to check into this.