Spring Is Making Its Way

Blue flowers and stone wallWhen spring comes, like the creatures in the woods and fields, I feel as though I am beginning to wake up after a time of hibernation. I want to get out doors and spend more time in the light. I welcome the brightness that comes in through the windows even though it also shows the accumulation of dust that is so easy to miss in the dimmer light of winter. I get out of bed more eagerly, most likely because the sky is brighter when I do. Spring also brings me memories of what it was like for me when I was a child and the seasons were more defined by what we ate as well as what we did.

Growing up I spent much of my time out of doors. My mother believed the fresh air was good for me. As well she wanted me to be active rather than sit with my nose in a book. Whenever the weather was relatively decent, neither raining, snowing nor windy and cold, I was sent out doors to play. I grew up in the country on a property that belonged to my great aunt Alice, with a good bit of land to it. Thus I could wander to my heart’s content in the fields and marshes that surrounded her large house and our cottage.

When the spring came and the ice receded from the marsh, I would trek about looking for interesting objects that the sea might have delivered during a winter storm. Once I discovered a large log, perhaps three feet or more in diameter that formed an interesting place to play. Another time I found a pane of glass with a lovely blue design on it that was yellow on the underneath. Thinking back I can see it still. It was probably once part of a picture frame. Sadly one day it disappeared, as did the log I liked so much.

Spring also meant there was more daylight time after school to play out of doors. As I wandered around, I made up all sorts of stories in which I imagined myself having some kind of an adventurous part. Although I had no one to play with I was good company for myself, and my active imagination helped me to create all sorts of fun. I was alone but never lonely. Being on our own property I was completely safe as well. It seemed to me that I had a little kingdom all my own to enjoy. Spring brought new opportunities for adventures as well as the chance to be by myself with no one to tell me what to do.

My brother lives in the house we grew up in and whenever I visit with him I marvel at how much smaller the property seems to me now. Too, the days seem far shorter than they did when I was a child, when Saturdays especially seemed to hold endless hours in which to enjoy myself. I greeted the advent of spring with joy because it meant I could get out and explore the surrounding fields and marsh in search not only of adventure but also of signs of the new growth that spring would bring to share with me.

Growing Up By Myself

Bed Friends 1

When I was growing up I lived a couple of miles from a small seaside town on a large property that belonged to my Great Aunt Alice. I didn’t have any siblings until I was almost nine. Virtually an only child, I was surrounded by busy adults and often told to stop bothering them and find something to do. A voracious reader, when I wasn’t nose deep in a book, I played games of pretend, making believe I was someone other than a lonely child in an isolated neighborhood with only herself to rely on for amusement.

I had quite a collection of teddy bears, dolls and other stuffed animals. When I was small I was sure they came alive at night. This belief was influenced by Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann and Andy books. These innocent stories about a group of toys that had adventures were written in the early 1900s and became even more popular in the 30’s and 40’s. In these stories, ice cream cones grew on trees, cupcakes and hot dogs could be plucked from bushes and lemonade and sodas were available in puddles and brooks.

Raggedy Ann’s magical woods full of “fairies and elves and everything” held all sorts of fun inventions that I yearned to experience for myself. I loved the stories and used to watch my toys to see whether they too might have adventures while I was sleeping. Sometimes I thought I spotted them in different positions than I had left them, though I could never be sure.

Later I moved on to books by Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexander Dumas, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Then I wanted to be a pirate or have exciting adventures when I became a grown up. I made bows and arrows out of handy branches and tied string to my father’s hoe and rake to make a hobby horse. If my father needed his rake he knew where to look–in my lilac bush “stable.”

My family believed in fresh air and I spent a lot of time all year round out of doors in nature. Where we lived I was fortunate in having a large open area to play in There were all kinds of trees to climb and large fields of tall grass that I made into my private jungle. My pretend life was much more interesting than my actual one. The world I lived in as a young child was without TV or any form of electronic toy or game. I had to use my imagination to conjure up my entertainment.

I wonder if my childhood led me to grow up looking at the world from a different perspective than most. Steeped in nature and in the creativity of my mind, its sights and sounds enhanced my imaginary life. Today I perceive links and patterns everywhere. I find significance in synchronicity and receive messages from the nature around me. The world was and is alive for me in a way today’s youth may not discover. With the current focus on electronics, most children will not have my opportunities. I learned to listen to and observe nature and found there a sense of companionship and of comfort that is with me still.

Shine On Harvest Moon by Tasha Halpert

Onions on Display

Once upon a time harvesting was done by hand. The farmer and his helpers scythed their way through their fields or picked their way through their orchards and gardens, gathering in grain, fruit and vegetables to store away or take to market. Most children today have no idea what a scythe or a flail is, or how to winnow. Yet though the ways of doing it have changed, fall is still harvest time, and we look to the shortening days to gather in what has grown.

In the month of September the harvest full moon shines brightly. At that time there are often gatherings and parties. The bright moon reminds us to say goodbye to the summer growing season and greet the time of reaping. This applies both that which we have planted earlier in the year and been tending, and that which has grown from the seeds we have planted in our lives. It is time to begin to reap what we have sown and tended over the last months.

For children today fall means school and the beginning of lessons. At one time in the past children too worked in the fields helping to bring in the harvest. I remember when I was small, my mother put up jars of fruit and vegetables. She made jelly from grapes and other fruit gathered locally. My great aunt’s gardener harvested and stored root vegetables in root cellar dug into the earth of her garden. In our basement was a small barrel of potatoes also harvested from her garden.

Although i no longer have a garden, every spring I look forward to the swelling of buds and the growth of all the nature around me. I also feel a sense of creativity blown in by the winds that stir up the soil and stimulate the air. In my mind I plant the seeds of projects I hope to accomplish as well as plan what I hope to learn in the months ahead. Spring is a time of promise. In the springtime of life youthful ardor makes ambitious plans for what is to be designed and built.

Then it is time to carry out the plans made and take care of the seeds planted. Tending the garden of my life is a task I have grown into as the years have gone by. In the beginning I was much less organized. I took on more than I could sensibly handle; all too often I planted too many seeds. As I grew to understand the folly of my ways I learned better no matter how hard I tried, what I could and what I could not accomplish. The knowledge and the understanding I have gained has also been part of the harvest of my years.

Friendships both seasonal and perennial are another important aspect of the seeds planted earlier in my life. The bounty of my experience as I have learned and grown is another. My most precious gain of all is perhaps the unfolding knowledge of who I am and what I can do as well as the extent of my potential. As I look back to the springtime of my life I realize how richly rewarding the harvest from my garden is, and how very grateful I am for it all.

The Outdoors Is My Garden

        Butter and eggs in yellow vase 2 I grew up with gardening parents. My dad, a horticulturalist grew lovely flowers. My mother, far more practical grew vegetables. I have grown both along with herbs and at one time I had a large lovely spiral garden that was a delight to show visitors and quite arduous to take care of. However, in those days I didn’t have a computer and I didn’t spend as much time writing, either.

          One of the good things about gardening is the exercise you get from doing it; another benefit is the fresh air from the time out of doors. However, where Stephen and I live now there are nice places to walk and people have lovely gardens we can look at. It is also possible to find wild flowers growing by the side of the road. This delights me because I have always loved the flowers that nature provides for free.

          Stephen and I were out for a walk recently when I spotted the little orange and yellow wildflowers I’ve known from my childhood as Butter and Eggs. Joyfully I gathered a small bunch to take home and put into a vase. Then I looked them up both on the Internet and in my own reference books: their Latin name is Linaria vulgaris. They were originally brought over from Europe centuries ago.

          I’ve often wondered whether snapdragons might not have been developed from these similar looking flowers the way carrots were developed from what we know as Queen Anne’s Lace. However there seem to be no connection beyond the resemblance. Bumblebees are one of their chief pollinators because of the tight construction of the flower.

          Another name for it is Toadflax. At one time it was thought these flowers would attract toads to the garden. Gardening and herbal lore tell us that what resembles a thing might be connected with it in some way. In the light of this information, it made sense when I read that the flower was called Toadflax because the blossoms resembled tiny toads.

          In addition to eating many harmful insects toads delight in dining on slugs. Not only are they far cheaper than noxious chemicals, they are much better for the garden as well as for the gardener than any poisonous insecticides. Also the flowers and other parts of the plant have been used as an herbal insecticide. Taken together with the insect killing properties of toads the name Toadflax seems even more appropriate.

          Although I have been a gardener for most of my adult life I am currently without a garden. People often ask if I miss it. To some extent I do, however, the many hours I once spent weeding and pruning can now be used for my writing and my rather large email correspondence. I can also console myself with this thought: The wildflowers that grow by the side of the road are available to the eye as well as for picking. Whether I gather them or just leave them there to grow I am glad, because all they require of me is my admiration.

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

Garden and Gardener

I am a garden
with all a garden requires
I am a gardener caring for my garden.

In the silence of night
owl calls,
firefly flashes,
frog croaks.

The garden rests.

In the silence of the night
gardener sleeps, dreams,
wakes and returns to sleep.

The gardener rests.

Under the sun
garden and gardener
toil at their tasks.

Beneath the earth
worms squirm,
grubs grow,
ants tunnel.

Nature alternates between rest and growth.

Garden and gardener I am
rich with doing, redolent with rest,
dutiful my days, tranquil my nights.

Words and Photo by Tasha Halpert

Image

Ode To The Carrot

Aside

How wonderful the carrot, sturdy, sweet!
What would a cole slaw be without the bright
sweet orange gratings of this tasty root?
For salads carrot curls, and what beef stew
would be complete without it’s carrot chunks?
I cherish carrot soup on a winter’s day,
warming and nourishing to flesh and bone
and carrot juice for hunger and for thirst.

Descended from the lace of good Queen Ann,
the feathery fronds belie the sturdy root.
Who was it first discovered under ground
the part that nourishes juiced, cooked, or raw?
How glad I am that someone long ago
saw the potential in that pale white root
and turned a lovely flower growing wild
into a vegetable for daily fare.
From that pale slender small yet meaty pith
a patient gardener crafted over time
what we call carrots–orange, long and firm.

In summer Daucus Carrotis’ slender stalks
topped with a white umbrella-like bouquet,
nodding beside New England streets and roads,
delight the eye of many a passer by
whose gaze is for the flower, unaware
that they are seeing carrots true forbears.

Image and poem by Tasha Halpert

Image