Tuesday, May 31, 2011

in clover: getting unstuck

I've been stuck in a bit of a rut lately.  It's ok, happens to the best of us. And being stuck in a rut is not all bad.  Sometimes, it is helpful to be in a "rut."  Sometimes, we just need to get where we need to go without having to think much about it.  But other times, we need to break out of the rut. 

I felt ready to be unstuck so I started moving things around. When I get stuck, it's the first thing I do.  I move things around in my physical environment.  Things I all ready have.  You'd be surprised by the difference that can be made, just by rearranging things a bit.  I moved things around inside the house last week.   Still stuck.  So I went outside....

The first thing I moved was this succulent I had planted in the wall pocket that hangs on the gate to the chicken courtyard.  I'd never felt quite satisfied with the way it looked.  Out of balance.  Not terrible but not quite right, either.  

I replaced it with this little guy which I think IS just right. 

Remember my post  about sacred brokenness?  Well, as is often the case, I have been given an opportunity to practice what I preach.  These are the window boxes by my back door last summer. 

I have had these planters as long as I have lived in this house.  Every year I congratulate myself on my good luck at finding pretty, reasonably priced, long lasting pottery planters that JUST FIT my concrete window ledges like they were custom made!
This year I lined the planters up on the ground for a new planting…all six in a row...

I added compost and plants to the six boxes and fit them snugly together on the ledge.  One, two, three, four, five...

 and then six.... 

I don’t know what happened.  It simply slipped from my hand.  Smashed on the concrete.   Can't be mended.
I was home alone and I could have cursed at the top of my lungs but I remembered that post about sacred brokenness.  So I allowed myself one quick, angry lap around the garden, fists clinched, and then I took a deep breath because there’s no sense crying over spilled milk or broken window boxes.
As I gathered the broken pieces, I realized they were too pretty to throw away.  To honor the lovely brokenness of the pottery, I placed the bits here, in this flower bed.  For the past few years, this has been my herb garden but in the spirit of moving things around I decided to move the herbs and  throw down about a zillion zinnia seeds here, among the instantly gratifying but quite expensive (compared to seeds) zinnia plants I bought at Wilson’s. Once things start to grow, I'll move the broken bits around again.

I spread out the five remaining boxes until the space on the ledge was evenly filled.  I thought to myself, “its kind of ZEN to leave a little blank space between the planters….like the beads of silence interspersed on my prayer bracelet.” 

After much reflection, I think I actually like them better this way.    
I’ve also changed the plantings in the window boxes themselves this year.  I’ve mixed up my  color scheme…throwing in some red, orange and yellow by adding basil, rosemary, Tequila mix rose moss, red calibrachoa  and giant Antigua Orange marigolds to my usual pink geraniums, asparagus fern and sweet alyssum.  I also swapped out the planters that sit on the steps under the window boxes.  I moved the very traditional dark green concrete planters filled with Lipstick Impatiens to the front steps. 

I replaced them with more contemporary plastic moss green urns and repeated the same plants.  (Got the urns at Target…a bargain at under $7 each!)  I've never had plastic urns before but I was drawn to the color and simple lines of these.  I looked at them at least a dozen times before I gave in and put them in the cart.

For a finishing touch, I swapped a (mildewed) khaki and black chaise lounge cushion for a bright green one.   (Home Depot - $19.99)  There is a lot of vibrant color in this corner now and I really like it.

I also made one more big change.  I did something I don't think I have EVER done before.  I bought some plastic chairs. It's not that I have anything against plastic...it's just that plastic, by it's very nature, cannot be rusty or have peely paint...traits that make my heart beat faster. 
Out front, I have these lovely handmade wooden Adirondacks (a gift from a sweet friend). And I LOVE them.

But I went with plastic for the back garden. They will dry quickly after a rain or a squirt from a garden hose.  They are lightweight and very easy to move off the grass.  Big C sometimes mows around the heavy wooden chairs which doesn't make me very happy. 

I like to move the chairs around to the ever elusive shady spot in the afternoon.  These are maintenance free, inexpensive ($16 on sale at Target) and come in very pretty colors these days.  I can't imagine I would ever want ALL plastic furniture, no matter how convenient or practical, but I am definitely enjoying these two chairs.   

I chose blue to pick up the blue roof on little c's house...

which, yikes, I just remembered is also made of plastic!  The little house was a gift to her on her 3rd birthday.  At the time, it was a choice between the cutest plastic house I could find or no house at all, despite the elaborate plans I had drawn for a custom made playhouse named Foxglove Cottage. 

I've decided to crown myself Queen of Good Enough and just get on with life!  This house with the blue roof was definitely Good Enough and little c and half the kids in the neighborhood love playing in it, plastic or not. 

The blue also shows up in this bistro table...

And in my broken blue vintage French seltzer bottle...

I think I moved myself right out of that rut.  



Saturday, May 21, 2011

in clover: synchronicity

Thank you for the graphic, Wikipedia

I am really into it right now..synchronicity, that is.  It was a big topic at our closing spiritual direction retreat.  I am enjoying looking for synchronicity in my own life and hearing others tell stories of it in their lives. 

Wikipedia defines it as: the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.

Here's my most recent experience of synchronicity.  You need a little background. 

First, I don't shop so much anymore.  I used to love a good day of shopping but now I shop only when I really need something or when I GENUINELY want something.  Those times come far less often than I would have guessed.  However, there are a few things that are difficult for me to resist. One example:  cutlery themed items...silverware.  I don't know why but when I see a pillow or a print or towel or pretty much anything with a fork, knife or spoon on it, I like it.  I'm simply fascinated by cutlery.

Thanks to The Graphics Fairy for the vintage clip art.
Second, one of my favorite blogs to read and follow is called Mossy.  On Wednesday, Marcie posted an  project on Mossy that really intrigued me....plant markers fashioned from vintage cutlery.  I immediately sent a link to a friend announcing, "I am going to do THIS!"  The next day, I hustled through ReStore and came home with a handful of inexpensive cutlery.   

Here's the cool part.  That afternoon, I had an email from a high school friend. She's younger than me, we didn't really hang out but we've reconnected on Facebook recently. Anyway, T wanted to introduce her two blogging friends...Lisa (me)...and Marcie (Mossy)...and she added a link to the cutlery plant marker post. 


This morning I was delighted to find in my inbox the fascinating tale of an old house, vintage curtains, and synchronicity.  You can read it too, on The Polished Pebble.  You should check it out.  

I love it when synchronicity shows up in my photography.  Here's one of my favorite examples.  This is Michael and Big C walking together...

Let me tell you, I was VERY pregnant at the time and my feet were VERY swollen and I was having a difficult time keeping up with them, much less snapping the photo.  Yes, the composition could be better but often, when I seek perfection in a shot, I lose the shot all together.  Here's to doing your best in the moment, no matter what your best is.

Do you look for synchronicity in your life?

If you have a story of synchronicity, please share!



Thursday, May 19, 2011

in clover: a little piece of heaven

It has been a most unusual spring around here.  The rain has not stopped...someone said a local meteorologist reported we have had nine days of sunshine since April. 

I have my new raised beds to plant this year and I've been wanting to make a trip to Wilson's in Frankfort.  They have a large selection of locally grown plants,heirlooms and organics.  They also have really cool garden ornaments too.  I'm a bit of a snob, usually preferring old things to new, but sometimes something new can tempt me. 

Last week, on only a SEMI-rainy day, Michael and I made a quick, quick trip to get a few veggies and a few things for the backdoor windowboxes.  
I ran through the nursery, snapping a few photographs and grabbing plants...promising myself I would return for a leisurely visit and maybe even lunch at the cafe.  By the time we were loading plants in the car, it was raining again.

When I got home, I posted to FaceBook that I felt slightly inebriated and that was the truth!  Drunk on beautiful plants, how awesome is that?!  

I liked this bench alot.  It has nice lines and is very sturdy.  It was priced at $300 plus. 

This chair looks very vintage French but with a bit of a modern twist.  A pair would make quite a statement.

This potting bench / green house was one of the first things to catch my eye.  Even though it's new, I really like it. The $1200 price tag was out of reach for me though.  I've been mulling over ideas of how to get a similiar look in my price range.  

A very cute porcelain toadstool....

Succulent shaped candles for $19.95...

This organic perlite reminded me of my friend Kera...she's going to make hypertufa! 

Several years ago, I participated in a group study of M. Scott Peck's book, "The Road Less Traveled."  I decided that I am generally pretty good at "delayed gratification," a concept covered in the book.  I usually plant zinna SEEDS but this year, I couldn't resist the instant gratification of buying a few plants as well.  One of my very favorites....

What an amazing array of succulents.  I decided to choose one for the wall pocket that hangs on the gate of the chicken courtyard and one to plant in my long, skinny stone trough in the green themed garden.  

Each year I try to change up the planting in my windowboxes but the one non-negotiable staple are pink geraniums. These are healthy and beautiful!

We love pesto and last fall, I froze several batches for the winter.  We enjoyed it so much I resolved to plant an entire basil patch this year! Here's one I've not seen before...

And of course, I had to get this variety...in honor of the many Magical Michaels in my life.  

Here's another nice ornament...this large, lovely sphere.  They came in several sizes.  This one was quite large and priced $68. 

Ahhh...Irish moss!  I had a patch of Irish Moss under my potting bench but last years severe drought led to its demise.

I hold myself responsible as it wasn't really in the right place, although the moss really gave it a go.  I got a  nice sized pot and I know exactly where I will plant it..well, one of two places!  I think.

Michael built our raised beds because we needed a custom fit but these would be a very good alternative to building your own...

Ok, I LOVE these....tomato cages in vibrant, cool colors!

Groovy head planters....wish I had gotten the blue one....

This was sweet....a sort of garden doll house...miniature conservatory and accessories.  Hard to resist.  :)

Equally irresistable to me, fairy gardens...one of these days...

Another old fashioned favorite...gazing balls....a chimney pot makes a nice stand  

It's likely a blessing we were in a hurry to meet little c's schoolbus.  We did get everything we needed...a little splash of color, lots of green, and a very nice selection of organic, heirloom veggies and herbs. 

I thought Wilson's prices were very comparable, even to a big box store.  The selection was unbeatable and the quality superb.  I can't wait to see how my garden will grow! 



Monday, May 16, 2011

in clover: sacred brokenness

My empty container in England waiting to be filled

In the spring of 2005, I was expecting a baby girl (little c) and a 40 foot high cube container of antiques from England and France.   The few years preceding had been difficult for my extended family…there had been deaths, divorces, financial troubles and other trying personal issues.   Lots of painful change. Hard times.

A pregnant me, shopping to fill the container

Anxious to get the new inventory cleaned, displayed and sold before the baby arrived, I was counting down the days until the ship carrying my container docked in Norfolk, VA.  The container would then make its way by truck to the shop.  Everything would need to be unpacked, cleaned, inventoried, photographed, priced and sold.  Post September 11, the import business had changed a lot but in almost 10 years we had never had any trouble getting our container through customs.  
Never say never.  First the container was detained for X-ray inspection.  Apparently my penchant for old garden and farm tools raised suspicions and so the container was completely unpacked for a physical inspection.  I was physically unable to do heavy lifting so Michael drove to Virginia. He had been told on the phone that he could repack the container.  A container, well packed, is a thing of beauty…hastily packed, it’s a disaster.  Michael drove home a week later, having never been allowed to even lay eyes on our container.
Two weeks later it arrived and we held our breath.   A birdbath…the basin cracked in two…a carton of blue and white porcelain plates shattered…the leg of a very fine 18th century buffet, snapped.  The list went on.  As we dug into the middle of the container I came upon a pile of what had once been lovely French earthenware jugs.  I was excited that I had been able to source so many and I had imagined how I would display them and how great they would look.  They were in pieces inside the shoddily replaced bubble wrap. 
At the end of the day, we realized it could have been worse. The furniture could be repaired, although it would be costly.  I sat on the floor with the damaged plates and a hammer.  I broke them into small pieces and displayed the broken bits in large glass canisters.  Finally I sold the pieces to a woman wanting to learn mosaic work.  Mike glued the birdbath together and brought it to our home…we didn’t think we could guarantee it well enough to sell it to someone else.  The French jugs were a lost cause except for one that was broken across the middle.  I sat it in an out of the way corner, by my work station, and left it there.

One day, I was helping a client sketch ideas and plans for a small fountain.   She had an old tub she would use for the base but was looking for something for the font.   She decided on an urn…the water would bubble up from the center, cascade down the sides of the urn and back into the tub.  It was going to be lovely.  I had been threatening to add a water feature to our garden for years but I didn’t like the fountains I saw for sale at home improvement stores.    
I wandered the store looking for pieces to combine into a fountain.   I knew that my fountain would go under a dogwood tree so it needed to be low to the ground…not too tall.  A low stone trough would be great but what to go with it? I had to keep in mind one of the biggest hurdles to designing a fountain… hiding the pump.
Maybe an urn like my client chose?  No, the colors were too similar.  An enamel body pitcher?  No, it would rust out in a season and the scale was all wrong. Maybe an English watering can?  No, just didn’t look right.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the two pieces of the broken French jug.  I set the top in the trough.  The angle of the break was just right for a fountain!  The dark brown color stood out against the putty colored stone.  And best of all, because the bottom was missing (broken), the pump would be easily hidden.  Voila!  My perfect fountain, born of imperfection.
Most of the time, I am able to see the sacred in wholeness. But when something breaks, I try to fix it. And that’s ok…many things CAN be mended.  In fact, in this disposable world we live in, more things SHOULD be mended.  When things can’t be fixed or we won’t take the time or the trouble to try, we often dispose of them post haste….sending them off to the landfill where we don’t have to see them anymore.  
But there is sacredness in the broken things too…broken things, broken relationships, broken people.   They are all sacred.  When something breaks and cannot be fixed, we have an opportunity to re-vision it…give it a new purpose.  Instead of banishing it from our sight, we can learn to live with the imperfection…the loss.  We can sit and look at the broken things…learn to appreciate them fully…even come to love them… maybe love them even more than we did in their wholeness. 
As a whole, perfect thing, the French jug would have sat in my dining room…a lovely display. But in its brokenness, the jug spills water into a basin and makes music.  Children cannot resist dipping their hands into the stream and robins bath in my fountain every morning, throwing their heads back under the water!  
I am aware that the jug, in its brokenness, is much, much more fragile than when it was whole.  When the weather turns cool, I do not take a chance.  A cold snap would shatter it for sure.  I store it more carefully than I do the other summer things.  For one thing, how would I replace it? Where does one find a broken jug for sale?  The jug, BECAUSE of its brokenness, is even more precious to me.  

little c and the fountain

I wonder how it would feel if we treated the broken and chipped places of our hearts and lives with the same care as I give my fragile, broken jug?   As a trainee to become a Spiritual Director, I am required to receive spiritual direction.  I think that so far, most of what I have learned is that…to accept, love and cherish those things about me that are nicked…cracked….even shattered. 
One of the Webster Online definitions for brokenness is:  "disrupted by change."  That's definitely something to reflect on.   
In our search for the sacred, I hope we do not over look the broken things.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

in clover: me and a tree

Friday I depart for Transfiguration Spirituality Center (the PLACE) to be with the beautiful PEOPLE of Sycamore Spirituality Center. "Contemplation in Everyday Life", the first year of my amazing spiritual direction training experience, is drawing to a close with a weekend retreat. 

At the opening retreat I was given this exercise:

Go outside, find a tree, sit with the tree, write about the tree. 

Do this for ONE HOUR!

Reluctantly I approached a tree, an evergreen.  I was completely sure that I would be finished in 10 minutes.  I just knew that I would spend the remaining 50 minutes wandering around the extensive and lovely grounds...bored and DONE with that tree. In my head, I planned which direction I would go.  But first, I did as I was told...I looked at the tree from all angles, smelled the tree, touched the tree...I could have fallen over in surprise when I was startled by the bell that rang announcing that the hour had passed, time was up.  I was nowhere near done with my writing or that tree. 

I opened my email to find this from Daily Om today.  Funny that I was just discussing this topic with a friend yesterday.  Whether we are conscious of it, I think being still is a real problem for many of us.  Although I try to be very intentional about creating sacred time and then keeping it sacred...whether it be group meditation or just sitting with the chickens, I continually struggle to give myself permission to simply be. 

Sometimes we do manage to carve out some sacred time but with it can come guilt.  And if we do manage to avoid inflicting the guilt on ourselves, friends, family or acquaintances often offer it to us.  One friend, recently retired, shared with me that over and over again she has been asked, "What will you DO?" 

Here's what the wise folks at the Daily Om had to say:

May 11, 2011
Hovering around the Sun
Avoiding the Center

Quiet time each day is so important, but many are so out of practice that it’s almost unnerving to be in stillness. 

It’s funny to imagine our lives as something we spend a lot of time avoiding, because it seems like that would be impossible to do. Our lives consist of everything we engage in, from showering to sleeping, but also a lot of busy work that distracts us and keeps us from looking at our lives. Experiencing our life from the inside means taking time each day to simply be alone and quiet in the presence of our soul. Many of us are so out of practice that it’s almost unnerving to have a moment to ourselves. As a result, we may have stopped trying to carve out that time to take a seat at the center of our lives.

One of the reasons it can be uncomfortable to sit with ourselves is because when we do, we tend to open ourselves to an inner voice, which might question the way we’re living or some of the choices we’re making. Sometimes the voice reminds us of our secret, inner yearnings, dreams we thought we had forgotten. When we already feel overwhelmed by our busy schedules, the idea of hearing this voice can be exhausting. However, its reflections are the chords that connect us to our authentic selves, and they are the very things that make our lives worth living. When we continually avoid connecting with our life, we risk losing out on the very purpose of our existence.

To begin the process of being more present and less absent in your life, you might want to set aside just a few minutes each day to simply sit with yourself. This doesn't mean watching a movie or reading a book, but taking time each day for self-examination to avoid the avoidance, to be with yourself in an open way. After a while, you may start to enjoy this part of the day so much that you make less busy work for yourself, so that you can spend more time at the center of your own life, rather than hovering like a planet around the sun.

Just for today, let's make a little space, let's invite the Spirit in, let's sit with a tree or a chicken or a candle or nothing at all.  Let's try to get to the center...come on, pinkie swear...I need help to stay accountable.  



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

in clover: a good foundation

As promised, part two!  Here's a long shot of the foundation bed post mulch.  
I think the birdbath, stones and succulent container planting look much nicer with the dark brown soil conditioner as an undercoat.  I use a product called Soil Conditioner.  It is an excellent soil amendment for the clay soil we have around here and it is a good looking mulch.  If you are in town, you can purchase it at Fayette Seed.  It's about $5 a bag.   

When I met this charming English lady, she was no longer in possession of whatever she originally held overhead.  She was in a bad marriage to an oversized birdbath top.  I encouraged them to go their separate ways!  Some years I have placed a small terracotta pot of annuals on her head but I've never really been quite satisfied.  Pre-mulch, here she is, sans head dress...

That's a tiny birdbath at the front of the bed...hmmm...worth a try.....

I'm not sure but I think I will leave her this way for a time.  I thought the arrangement seemed a little off balance so I added a marble urn borrowed from the front garden. I like threes...

This stone trough sits in the center of this shaded bed.  I usually fill it with impatiens but by the middle of summer, the impatiens grow so large they completely cover the trough.  This year I'd like to highlight the lovely and unusual French trough.  More succulents?  Not sure.  I think I will look for inspiration at the gardening center.  Those are tiny lettuce sprouts growing now.  The seeds came free in the mail and I planted them way too late, it's getting much too warm for lettuce but aren't they cute?

The marble urn needs something.  I considered impatiens but I decided that this year, I would like this bed to be completely green...no other color.  There is lots of color elsewhere in the garden.  The urn does not hold much soil, this bed does not get much light and I like to keep things as simple as possible so I used an asparagus fern for the urn, just to soften up my lady and carry the green color throughout. It should grow and fill out nicely.

I hope that no matter where you live, you find a little quiet time to go outside and plant a little something, somewhere.  It is so good for the soul! 

Peace,  Lisa
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