Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn In The Garden ~ Changes Within and Without...

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."  
~o~ George Eliot ~o~

Gorgeous, very large red zinnia

Zinnia fading and going to seed, a touching kind of beauty...

Breath-taking David Austin English rose, 'Julia Child" which
is extremely fragrant and has bloomed steadily since spring
when most have given up the ghost in our summer heat. But
ah, the roses are starting to come back now that the weather
is cooling off and as I have planted roughly 40 roses here so
far it should be quite a show...

Delicate forget-me-nots are everywhere just now, one
of my favorite flowers...

 Hibiscus Syriacus, woody stemmed perennial

Red "Dinner plate" Hibiscus moschuetos. Soft stemmed
shrubby perennial here in the south with stunning, huge
flowers in pinks, reds, and whites. I have them planted
everywhere here and they are a glory!

Hibiscus Syriacus 'Satin Blue," so much bluer in person.
Alas, very often blue flowers are very difficult to photograph
and get the truly distinct blues...

I grow a great many varieties of hibiscus in my garden, the
common ones, and I collect the named varieties, cultivated
for their special beauty. Of all of the many in my garden,
far too many to show here, I believe this is my favorite. It
is in the moschuetos family and is called 'Turn of the

This rose will always be my favorite. A very
soft, almost seashell pink, extremely fragrant,
and blooms like topsy from spring through
autumn, David Austin's English rose,

One of my very favorite flowers for hanging baskets
which I have all over the porch and deck and hanging
from shepherd hooks around the garden. This is
calibrachoa and comes in several colors. This one
is on the deck just outside my studio windows...

This is what I call my "Growing On" garden. I had these boxes
built to start very tiny slips and baby plants in the spring to be
planted in the fall. Most of what you see are named hibiscus
cultivars, plus a number of perennials that are now big enough
to go in the ground. There are also closed off sections on each
side of the back where I plant the flavored mints that would
take over the world if left in open spaces, and they are so
fragrant they could take your breath away. My favorites
are the candymint, and chocolate mint but I have quite a
few. Other herbs for cooking grow along the back section
as well...

Lovely Lycoris, also often called "Naked Ladies" here in
the south because they stand tall on a straight strong
stalk with no leaves at all. These are volunteers in my
garden and quite a delight they are. This is my 3rd
summer here and I didn't plant them and they were
nowhere to be seen the first summer. Last year they
started popping up EVERYWHERE and they are
gorgeous. I was thrilled to see them back again
this year!

A bouquet of roses on a single stem...

Fungi madness! This is on a tree stump near the deck and it is
only one of many places fungi have gone wild this summer.
Wee little mushrooms have popped up everywhere, a great
variety, but since I am not an experienced mycologist and
cannot tell a mushroom from a poisonous toadstool with
very few exceptions, I leave them be and the fairies frolic
under and around them and bring delightful magic to the

These are but a very few of the wonders growing here at Dragonfly Cottage. I took a great many pictures over the summer but with the intense heat, and problems popping up here and there with repairs, the photos stayed in the camera and are just too many now to post. I shall have to do a little PDF file to share some time this fall perhaps.

And so autumn is here at long last, and I, too, agree with George Eliot. My very soul is wedded to it. Since I was a little girl this has always been my favorite time of year, and I miss, badly, the cool crisp weather and changing colors of the leaves that I grew up with in the midwest. We get a bit of nice cool weather, later than most, but the leaves never change and we get very little snow. I really miss the full four seasons.

Now, at 58, autumn seems ever more poignant as this is the autumn of my life, and, like the season in nature, this season of my life is my favorite so far. Such a mellowing comes with age, and even amidst the hard days and sorrows, the ups and downs of life, there is a warm golden hue cast over all of the days now, for me, and I am so filled with gratitude, every single moment, gathering up the treasures that daily come my way and putting them in the basket I carry over my arm as I walk with my pugs in our woods, and sing hosannas in praise for all that we have been given. I am so happy at this time of the year. Just so peaceful, and it is even easier to breathe, and I move more gently through my days, and the silence around me is soon flooded with the sounds of the wild ones outside, the most beautiful music in the world to me.

I wish you beautiful autumn days wherever you are. We have entered the season of thanksgiving. There is so much to be grateful for...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nature's Tender Beauty Heals Gently...

on the temple bell."
~o~ Buson ~o~

Dear Ones,

Yesterday I was sick. Really sick, some flu or virus of some sort and limp as a dishrag from all the, well, you know, one needn't paint a picture. And then, after half a day of the worst of it starting to get a bit better but still feeling poorly it's easy to go into the "Poor Me's...(Heavy Sigh)" so I went outside with the dogs into the fresh air and sunshine and as they were moseying about the yard I lost myself in the beauty of the cottage garden for a few minutes, with too many butterflies to count, and got a really good shot, with my phone camera, of this beautiful butterfly who wasn't the least bit concerned that I practically got in his face to take the picture! It was a lazy warm day and the butterflies were just enjoying their zinnia feast and were as slow moving as I felt. I came in feeling better all over, the fresh air, the sunshine, the beauty of the natural world all around me, with my funny little pugs trotting about, tiny blind Miss Penny wandering over to me when she was ready to be picked up and carried in, the little boys racing about at top speed after squirrels, and dear old Sam, my beloved boy, just a few feet away from me. He never leaves my side and won't go in until I do. My sweet, sweet boy.

My beloved boy Sampson. Sam is now 14 and I've had him
since he was 9. He is my velcro pug and always near me,
and as you can see by the heart on his forehead, he is a love

pug extraordinaire. I told my vet he'd better live to 100
because I never want to be without my sweet boy...

After I came in I thought, "Well, enough's enough!" I made myself get dressed, I did some watering in the garden, cleaned up the kitchen and got the dishwasher going, fed the dogs and went outside again, and by evening, even though I still wasn't feeling well, I felt so much better, a lifting of the spirits, and we all know that with the mind-body connection that trip out into the garden did more healing than anything else could have. 

I just wanted to share with you a brief reminder of what a beautiful healer nature is, even in a little neighborhood back yard, or anywhere, an apartment balcony, a park. Make regular forays into the natural world and feed your soul. It's the best medicine ever. 

I've taken a lot of garden pictures I will be getting up here soon. In the meantime, I'm sending you armfuls of flowers from my garden over the waves to you. See them in your mind's eye in a vase in your favorite room, and don't forget to picture the butterflies there too!

Blessings and Love,

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Time Of Gratitude and Blessings...

"Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
~o~ Melody Beattie ~o~


Tiny blind Penny sleeping on my lap
at the computer, snuggled into a soft
blanket. I have to sit sideways with 
my feet up so she has a lap to lie in,
and I do a good bit of typing these
days sideways and one-handed!

Dear Ones,

Today I am full to over-flowing with a sense of gratitude that goes so deep and wide throughout my life I feel I have almost an embarrassment of riches. The garden lush with flowers and butterflies too many to count. Roses coming into bloom again now that the weather is cooling off and the clematis starting to bloom. We are close to harvest time and fall planting and my woods in the back of the cottage are a beautiful canopy over the spaces that surround us, their green leaves still brilliant in the sun, and I, the dryad, the tree spirit at heart, hug the trees and laugh as I feel their hearts beating.

And then there are the little ones. Scarlet, my grey parrot, adopted in May, who came nearly naked after a lifetime of plucking, is beginning to leave the pin feathers just coming in alone and I cross my fingers that she will let them grow out. I buy lots of toys that she can shred and she spends her days out of her cage on the top playing, singing, and talking up a storm just 2 or 3' from this chair I'm sitting in. She brings me so much joy sometimes I just sit singing with her, smiling from ear to ear. How blessed I am to live amongst so many animals, the pugs, the parrots, and the wildlings outside.

All of the pugs are always near me, but wee tiny Penny sleeps in the crook of my arm with my arm wrapped around her and her little head on my shoulder or snuggled into my neck. I can feel her breathing softly, and if I have to get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night she quickly snuggles in as fast as she can when I crawl back into bed, burrowing her face into me. My 3 puggy boys are all attached to my body, above the covers (they have huge soft quilts that change when the sheets do that they snuggle into), but I feel their presence against my feet and legs. The nights I fall asleep on the couch my toes are usually buried in the three boys fur until one or two of them come up closer, next to Penny. Sometimes I can barely go to sleep I am so overcome with love.

Every simple meal is a feast, my humble cottage is a cozy home, "strangers" that I have met here on the internet have quickly become friends, some cherished and very dear with very deep and special relationships that are a gift to me, a solitary. Their companionship is treasured, and I still may be at peace here to meditate and pray, to write and weave, to dream and find peace as visions rise for my future that I work to live out. 

As the weather cools I am drawn back to my fiberwork which falls to the wayside in the heat of summer when the garden takes up so much time. I will continue to work on the freeform "Rainbow Serpent of the Dreamtime" that is already over 8' long, made entirely from handspun yarns, mostly my own, a contemplative act in front of a glowing fire. The weather will soon be cool enough for the first fire and I relish the wood burning, kindling gathered from my acre, firewood cut by an elderly minister now retired, who cuts fallen trees from his farm, and I gather the ashes, once cooled, to sprinkle around the garden. The cycle of life continues.

Last year, after the tree was adorned with blue lights, my favorite color Christmas lights, I was so taken with the simple tree that I didn't even put ornaments on it. I would sit at night with the fire glowing and the tree so beautiful, I simply couldn't spoil it with store bought ornaments. 

This year I am, right now in fact, starting to collect things in nature -- pine cones, soft small branches I will soak to soften, bend into shapes and perhaps crochet or leave plain, and I've thought to use strands and pieces of dyed wool instead of garland. I am very excited about this and while the pugs wander around our private enclosure I search the ground and low branches for possibilities. The abundance of Nature fills me with awe and seems fitting for a tree. 

So now I sit envisioning the bounty of autumn which will officially begin in a week or so, and the depression of summer softens and lightens and comes less frequently as my favorite time of year and the cool weather comes as a gift and a blessing. I keep the feeders filled for the wild birds and every day change their water that ices over during the night. I like the turning of the clock when night falls earlier and dark descends across the land. Some people dislike the shorter days but I take great comfort in them. I always seem happier at night when hot tea, a good book and a couch full of pugs cuddle close. Oh, I already anticipate the joy that is just ahead, and surely fills this day as well. I am happy today, and the animals feel it, the pugs almost smile and Scarlet sings, and the four smaller parrots seem peaceful and give me kisses, gently, brushing their cheeks against mine. 

I pray that the autumn brings peaceful days for you, and cozy nights to rest and find solace in the home you have created around you. Be it ever so humble, there's no place like the nest we create for ourselves, and as I pull my shawl around me and prepare to walk outside with the dogs, I bid you adieu until another day. May we all find beauty in the world around us, and whisper heartfelt thank-yous for all that we have been given.

"Autumn evening --
there's joy also
in loneliness."
~o~ Yosa Buson ~o~

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Finding Paradise...

"Paradise was made for tender hearts..."
~o~ Voltaire ~o~ 

Dear Ones, 

I have had the sweetest time of late, a time amidst difficulties already mentioned here, and the terrible heartbreak of seeing one of my oldest and most beloved friends in terrible pain and fear and barely holding on going through the end of treatments for a very difficult cancer. My heart aches and breaks and besides offering prayers and love and constant reassuring contact -- which feels so little and leaves me desperate to be able to do more -- there is nothing more that I can do for now and so I continue to do what I can.

I continue to struggle with the book that I am writing but there is continued forward movement, gaining momentum, as I both work steadily on and am shored up by very dear comments here, and e-mails and calls from friends who say, "Keep on, keep on, this is it..." and so I do, I keep on, doing what I can, every single day, and I am working very hard, amidst all that life holds right now, not to allow myself to go under from constant bouts of near suffocating fear. My spiritual counselor, teacher, and friend said a week ago, "Every time we talk lately you are so depressed and fearful," and it's the kind of thing that brings one up short because while I knew that I had been experiencing these things I hadn't realized they were so pervasive as to be seen and felt by others. Since I keep mostly to myself I think no one notices because it is not my intent to burden anyone but to move through my life and days constantly working towards equilibrium, but this is why we have spiritual teachers, and the guidance was well-timed and meant much to me.

And so a few days ago I walked outside with the dogs and I turned round and round looking at my sweet little place here and the first thought that sprang to my mind was, "I am already in Paradise." It was a shocking realization, a comfort, and a revelation.

I first want to say that I am no Pollyanna as some think when I write positive and joyful things, as though I put blinders on to keep the pain and suffering of the world out. This couldn't be further from the truth. I am all too aware of wars and famine and tragedies too many to count on a worldwide scale, but what I also know to be true is that while I hold all in my prayers at all times, and donate the bit of money that I can where I can to try to help, I then have to release the fear and worry that can sink a person already weighted down with depression and anxiety and look up to the light above and try, every day, every hour, to find beauty and joy and love where I may. I am only one person, I cannot change the world, but I am responsible for taking care of my own life the best I can because it touches many people, my children, grandchildren, friends, I don't want people to worry, or suffer, or have to contend with what living in this body of mine means, and so my solitude brings comfort to me and a cushion between myself and those I love. No one need share the burdens, only whatever love and happiness I can offer.

Paradise. We have all kinds of visions of paradise. For some it has to do with the life hereafter, if one believes in it, for others paradise is a locale, a place they long to travel to or to live, for others, still, paradise might be a dreamed of life that once achieved they imagine will be the "happily ever after" come at last. For me, in that moment, what I realized is that this imperfect-perfect life of mine, my little home and woods and garden and animals, humble and sweet, are so full of riches I couldn't count them all in a lifetime. I laughed with delight at the squirrel racing at top speed flying up trees with a little pug in chase and screeching. One of these days, just ONE, I think he is saying to himself, staunchly determined, I'm going to catch one of those things!

The wild birds at the feeders everywhere, too many types to count, and the amazing number of butterflies, dragonflies, bees and other insects in the cottage garden above, the little garden planted from seed just outside my bedroom windows (I took the above picture from the inside looking out.) that I will let go to seed and keep replanting with ever more seeds creating a topsy turvy colorful wonder of flowers to meditate on, well, every time I walk outside with the dogs it takes my breath away. Paradise indeed.

I don't need to travel the world or live in a mansion or acquire many of the earthly possessions that others might long for -- and that's all to the good for them, we each have our dreams -- I am, at long last, settled and at peace, at 58, in a place I could happily live the rest of my life, ever expanding the garden and writing and making art and sending love letters to friends out in the world and writing here and reading, oh yes, reading reading reading, whole worlds in the pages of books, and watching movies on my cozy couch snuggled in with four pugs under softly worn cotton blankets and puffy pillows with a small table next to me piled with notebooks, pens, books, a small light, perhaps a cup of tea. It is a settling thing to realize that you have landed smack dab in the middle of all that you could possibly dream of, to fall on your knees with gratitude, acknowledging the grace in each wonder filled moment, where amidst the dark clouds that will arise on the horizon in life one can't possibly help but be shored up by all there is at hand. I have found my paradise, and I discover ever more, every day.

It is a lovely Sunday afternoon. I am breathing a deep sigh of relief now that September is here and the days are getting cooler. It is so hot for months on end in the southern coastal areas that one can only creep about at odd hours to water the garden, and go in and out with the dogs, and even those tasks have sent me inside almost unable to breathe from the heat, despairing of so much that needs to be done and is impossible in weather over one hundred degrees for weeks and weeks on end. But ah, September is here, and the weather will still be warm, we will have hot days, but my garden, I know, is grateful to feel these days coming as well because it gets quite raggedy by the end of summer. The roses have given up the ghost in the heat and stopped blooming, but they will bloom beautifully in the cooler weather of fall. I will really be able to get outside and pot up and transplant things that need to be moved or brought inside. Things can be tidied over the next months and put to bed for winter, when the garden to come in spring is the distant dream and seed catalogs more riveting than the best novels. Yes, paradise, paradise found, right here on my own little acre.

Sitting here, chin resting on my palm as I gaze outside my studio windows at the hanging basket of pink and white vinca, watching the cardinals, the titmouse, the chickadee, a little wren, a blue jay, and my dear pileated woodpecker flying back and forth between the feeders and the trees that overhang my large deck, it occurs to me that, like so many other things, finding paradise is an inside job. Some people "have it all" in the world's eyes and yet that "all" is never enough. Some of the poorest people in the world, even amidst hardships most of us can't imagine, find joy and beauty and contentment in things that all too many of us take for granted or don't notice. Yes, finding paradise is an inside job and one I plan to cultivate, with the deepest gratitude and prayers of thanksgiving, all the days of my life. I want to write about it, to share it, to help others find it in their own lives, that is my dream. I don't easily walk out into the world, but I can send what I can from here and hope that my humble offerings will mean something. Even to be able to offer what I can from my own hearth and home is a blessing to me. And so I work each day to do what I can, and I walk out into the garden again and gather a bouquet of flowers while the pugs have their forays into our little wooded world, and the bounty of nature.

I hope you can touch down on a bit of paradise wherever you are right now, in this moment, with your tender heart open to receive. No matter how small there are delights to be found if we look, if we dare. These are the things I am seeking, and the more I see the more I find. And I will keep looking, and offering them to you here. Words, and art, and gardens, and pugs, and love, and so much more...