Pandemic Blues

In the market today, I overheard a customer asking the clerk if people were honoring the face mask requirement. “Everyone is so done with face masks, and everyone is in a bad mood,” she replied. (In spite of her comments, everyone was wearing a mask, including the clerk.)

The face mask hadn’t bothered me, but I had been in a bad mood for a few days. Things that didn’t help:

  • Missing Mass
  • Binge watching murder mysteries
  • Staying indoors

Things that helped:

  • Prayer
  • My husband
  • Friends
  • Gardening
  • Exercise
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Music

Lost and found: Hope

Neighbors

The table and chairs are just out of sight on the right.

In the mountains, my husband and I have a small vacation townhome. The patio is just large enough for a table with an umbrella, four chairs, and a few flower pots. The ponderosa pine just beyond the gate is the main attraction, but even here, I must have a little garden. When I came back this time, to my delight I saw that my neighbors had kept my petunias and marigolds alive in my absence. Good neighbors are so precious.

On my first day back as I was sitting on the patio, a bee appeared out of nowhere and buzzed around my head several times. It was clearly angry, and it was clearly trying to chase me away, but I held my ground. At home in the garden I move among the bees as they pollinate the flowers, and they never seem to mind my presence. However, this mountain bee was seriously upset, even though I was minding my own business. The next day on the patio, it returned and buzzed around my head again, but not as many times, and not for so long.

I haven’t seen it since. It has apparently accepted me as a neighbor.

Wildflowers

Back in the mountains, I took my morning walk in search of wildflowers. It was slim pickings, since the tall grasses along the pathways had been recently mowed. I managed to find the delicate beauties pictured above and below.

Although I had walked this route many times, until this morning I had barely noticed the bird houses that someone crafted and attached to the chain link fence along the path. Each one was carefully placed under a tree to provide shade for a fledgling family.

The occupants had long since flown into the wild blue yonder.

Anthem

At the last light, well after sunset, a throng of wrens in the surrounding trees suddenly burst into song. I only see two or three of them during the day, but when they join together in the evening serenade, there must be hundreds of them hidden in the trees. They finally settle down when the light has completely faded. Then again, at the first light of dawn, the anthem begins again and continues until the sun has risen.

In the short life of a bird, I suppose the going and coming of the light is indeed a momentous thing. I need to learn from this.

Sabbath

Sunday afternoon at home

As a teenager living in Wisconsin, Sundays were a challenge for me. At that time, all the stores were closed on Sundays. After morning church, there was a long wait for the roast in the oven. In the afternoon, there was nothing on TV except the polka parties. Elderly couples danced the polka round and around in circles for hours. I thought they would never stop, but apparently they did, since I am now older myself, and it’s been many years since I’ve seen a polka party on TV.

As an adult, like many people, I quickly succumbed to the busyness of life. Sundays became similar to every other day, filled with tasks, shopping, and distractions. It was sometime after my conversion to Catholicism that I began to consider the Sabbath again.

Now, I relish these long Sunday afternoons (even though there is still not much on TV). When I keep Sunday as a day of rest, I seem to have lots of energy during the rest of the week. However, when I busy myself with tasks and shopping, I seem to be frazzled for the rest of the week. It appears that the Sabbath was indeed made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Who knew?

Being

Just sitting in the garden – not as easy as it sounds, especially when there are duties of life awaiting me. I think it’s important, though. Most of the time I run from one task to another until I have to stop and rest. Are those tasks really that important?

This morning I saw a roadrunner running across the road. (In Southern New Mexico, we really only see them when they are running across the road. Hence, the name.) Almost impossible to get a photo. They are always running.

I think I will just sit here for a while and ponder the mystery of being.

Awe and Wonder

I read somewhere that people who garden do so because they love being in the garden. The labor is an excuse to spend time in the midst of beauty.

We never completely tame the garden, although we try. Weeds and slugs battle against our efforts. Sun scorches, wind tangles, drought dries, and deluge drowns. Still, we always come back for more.

I like what I become in the garden. I rediscover awe and wonder at the sight of mysterious growth and new blossoms. I feel close to God in the garden.

I think most gardeners are unconsciously searching for a glimpse of Eden. The curious thing is that, for a moment we actually find it.

June Garden

Desert Bird of Paradise

The showy blooms of spring have passed, and the garden is settling down for the long hot summer. However, there is still some color to delight me, especially in the Desert Bird of Paradise shrubs.

In the courtyard, I planted some different annuals this year, since many of my usual choices were not available. The Zinnias began to look shabby as the days grew hotter, but they are doing better now under the Vitex tree. In this climate, many plants that like full sun actually do better in filtered shade. The Moss Roses, however, seem to be natural sun-bathers, even in Southern New Mexico.

Indoors, my plant nursery from cuttings is showing mixed results. Again, the dry heat seems to be a problem. The Mint, Rose Geranium, and Citronella are promising. Not so sure about the Salvia and Lantana. All of the cuttings seem to do better in water than in soil, but it takes longer for the roots to form.

On the back patio, my herb garden seems to do well in the morning sun.

If all else fails, I will still have my triennial Petunia to comfort me. It grows so fast and so profusely that I will have to cut it back several times this summer.

Fr. Valentine’s Chickens

The babies, four to five-and-a-half weeks old

Today, I had my monthly meeting with my spiritual director. I needed this, Gentle Reader, more than you know. After our session, I asked Fr. Valentine if I could see his chickens. First, he showed me the babies. The blurry charcoal gray one (above – center bottom) hatched from his adult chickens. The rest came from the local feed store.

Next, he showed me the teenagers, still protected in a separate coop. When they are older, they will join the free-range community. Unfortunately, my photo of the teenagers didn’t turn out well. A few of the adults are pictured below. Fr. Valentine highlighted the different varieties. He even had a game hen (not pictured), who let her feelings be known when he took her eggs. I petted the babies and one of the teenagers (but not the game hen).

Did you hear the one about the chicken who…

Fr. Valentine provides the eggs for his community of Franciscan Conventual Friars. He sent me away with 18 fresh brown and white eggs, a generous sample of the goodies in the fridge. Pictured below is the man himself, confessor and chicken farmer extraordinaire.

Fr. Valentine Jankowski, OFM Conv.

Spacing

When our yard was landscaped over a decade ago, the new plants were so small that you could barely see them in the stark expanse of garden rock. Now the plants have matured to the point that the yard almost looks like a desert jungle. But there is still enough space between the plants to present a pleasing appearance.

If you have driven through the Oak Grasslands of California, you have seen my idea of perfect natural spacing. Here and there, the oak trees dot the rolling hills. Somehow they know not to crowd each other. One could easily imagine the Lord strolling through his creation and scattering the acorns that grow into trees. I am reminded of a stanza from “The Spiritual Canticle” by St. John of the Cross:

A thousand graces scattering,
He passed through these groves with haste,
And in gazing at them
With his image alone,
Left them clothed in beauty.