April Showers and May Flowers

Maple blooming 17 2The forsythia is blooming. Its golden flowers brighten the landscape and provide a kind of sunshine even during April showers. Gardening is present in the thoughts of those who do and in the stores as well. Pansies and other colorful flowers decorate the entrances of supermarkets and other stores that sell them. Gardening supplies are piled up ready to purchase. Even though it’s not yet time to be planting, these and other signs of spring hearten those of us who are weary of winter’s drab browns and blacks, bare limbs and withered weeds.

Gardening runs in my family and in my blood. I wish I could yet I can’t claim the green thumb of my ancestors. My great grandfather planted an orchard of flourishing fruit trees. His apple trees blossomed and bore from the onset of spring until deep into fall. His quince trees produced fuzzy hard fruit that with my mother’s diligent efforts became jelly and preserves. In her garden she grew a variety of vegetables. I can see her still working away in it, her tanned back brown in the sun.

My grandmother had a gardener named Mr. Patch. He was Irish. I remember his nut brown face and his wonderful brogue as he discussed with my grandmother what he needed for the garden. She did some work also, principally with her pruning shears as she picked her magnificent roses. She grew both flowers and vegetables, harvesting and eating from her garden all summer long. What I remember most clearly were her glorious gladiolas, the saucer plate dahlias ranging from deep red to bright orange and yellow, and the colorful zinnias that lined the gravel path leading from her driveway to her door, bounded by a white picket fence and two strips of green grass turf.

My father too grew roses and later brought back some young peach and plum trees from a horticultural show, planted them and then harvested the fruit when they grew old enough to produce it. I did have one experience with a fruit tree. Back when I had my spiral garden I had bought what I thought was a white forsythia to plant there. After three years it hadn’t flowered. Reluctant to discard it, I dug it up, replanted it at the edge and forgot about it. To my great surprise and delight, though now in the shadow of a large spruce, it grew into a white peach tree that produced three peaches its first year and many more after that.

These days my gardening is limited to a few potted plants. Perhaps one day I will have a small garden again, however I couldn’t manage anything very much more than the original three by five foot plot I was given as a child for my own. I grew flowers there, and then weeds by the time August rolled around. But it got me started on many years of garden tending. These days I write poetry about gardens together with other aspects of nature and the world I live in. My gardens have become metaphysical rather than physical, and truth to tell my back is grateful.

Smelling the Lilies

Star Lilies 4       Of all the flowers with delightful scents, there are three that are favorites of mine: Lilies, Roses, and Hyacinths. So it was that when I was shopping in Trader Joe’s last week and saw the Star Gazer Lilies for sale I could not resist buying a small bunch and bringing them home. As I had hoped they would they have filled our small apartment with their wonderful scent.

As I sit here writing my column I am breathing it in. As I do, these colorful lilies with their glorious perfume remind me over and over again how important it is to give to myself as well as to others. It has taken me more than a few years to recognize the importance of doing that. My dear mother called such thinking selfish. She was raised in a home where children came last, after guests, parents and other adults. To think of oneself first, if at all, was not encouraged.

There was no intentional cruelty involved in this attitude. It sprang from a different way of seeing the world and of acting on that viewpoint. There is a strong behavioral edict that sprang from traditional thinking that it is better to give than to receive. While it is good to give, there are psychological reasons that were not taken into account by this edict that need to be addressed. In addition there is the question of balance versus imbalance to be considered.

I was raised in much the same way. I remember once being surprised when a friend said that we must be home by four o’clock for her children’s TV program. That the wishes of children were something to consider was a new thought for me. As a young mother it never occurred to me that children’s choices were anything to be considered.

In the years since then I have done a lot of learning. A most important lesson of my lifetime has been that if I do not give to myself I will not have much to give others. My cup must have something in it before I can give from it freely. My giving must be in balance with my receiving. What I have discovered, sometimes the hard way is that if I give only to others and not to myself I develop unconscious resentment that can lead me to act unkindly, or be overly critical without meaning to. This can creep up on me and I need to make sure I notice it when it happens.

From the time I was small being kind has always been very important to me. Thus it has become vital that from time to time I assess my behavior to make sure I have been giving to myself enough to balance my graciousness to others. It is not always easy to remember to give to oneself. It often initially feels so good to give to others that it is easy to forget to include oneself. As I inhale the perfume of the wonderful lilies I am reminded again of how grateful I am for this gift I gave to myself, and of how glad I am that I bought them.

Text and Photo by Tasha Halpert

Giving and Receiving

My loving Heart
gives without thought,
without stint of itself;
gives and is given in return.
And I am given that I may give,
and give that giving may be and continue.

All life is a giving and a receiving,
that the giving may have a purpose
and the receiving a place to be.
Unfolding the gifts means
unwrapping the giving
to discover the receiver
and by accepting
the receiver in turn gives
as the circle becomes complete.

With a full heart my giving is.
With an open heart, my receiving is.
The love that gives and receives
has endless supply and never lacks;
the love that gives without stint
receives the same and more,
and finds in the giving
and in the receiving
endless joy.

Tasha Halpert Pictures downloaded from my camera 2. 115

Easter is a Feast of Joy

Image         About two months before Easter chocolate bunnies wrapped in gold foil begin to appear in the stores alongside Passover coins and other items relating to these two great annual spring festivals. Slowly but surely a variety of items crowd the shelves: yellow marshmallow baby chicks and rabbits, egg dying kits, and more. As the time grows closer to the holidays, beside the glorious smelling hyacinths in the market, fragrant lilies bloom.

For me as a young child Easter was always more about flowers and the occasional candy treats it would provide. My dad’s corsages for my mother and me were a big part of my joy in the holiday. I also loved it that we got to go to my dad’s church as well as my mom’s because I enjoyed singing the hymns and was given a plant to take home. As I recall it was usually a potted geranium. Hats were important too, and nice clothes–perhaps even new ones.

As the time for celebration approaches, shoppers carry away the flowers displayed on supermarket tables. Parents make up baskets with candy eggs and other tasty treats for their children. Meanwhile, Passover foods go home to pantry shelves. Like Christmas and Hanukah, Easter and Passover are celebrated primarily with special foods that pronounce the symbolism of the season. However, both of these spring feasts are rich with family centered celebrations unrelated to a focus on commercialism or gift giving.

Easter and Passover are different from each other, yet both tell a story that is important to the traditions of Christian and Jewish peoples. Both are joyous and raise the spirits of those who celebrate. This season of joy even blooms in the hearts of those who do not celebrate it religiously. The flowers and the candy, the candles and the rituals call out to the traditions that go back more than two thousand years. There is a kind of memory that is built into our brains and resonates to these symbols, increasing the feast of our celebration.

My mother did not usually cook for us on Easter. Either my great aunt or my grandmother did the honors. I remember roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, or turkey or ham, and all the wonderful foods that went with them. Mostly, though we got to go to the family feasts where I might be given a small Easter basket and was usually the only child present.

Once primitive people rejoiced at the coming of a time when trees blossomed and green herbs provided a variety to the stored, dried foods they had subsisted on through the cold months of winter. Imagine what it must have been like to make a salad or pick wild greens to fill mouths weary of winter fare. Now though we can enjoy fresh vegetables and meats all year round we have special foods to provide a feast that not only rejoices the heart but also reminds us that we honor the great traditions of faith that have for so long fed and sustained us.

Spring Patterns

Spring crochets leaves onto branches,
stippling blue sky with green lace.

Pursed tulips await rain until sunshine
encourages petals to invite sun and bees.

Umbrella in hand, I shade my eyes
looking at the sky in speculation.

Birds crisscross skies cloudy to bright and back.
Spring is a both/and time of year.Image