Monday, May 22, 2017

Buying Bewilderness

"Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment."

Saturday dawned warm and sunny. Demo Day was finally here!. For weeks I had been waiting for the rains to stop, the ground to dry out, and the threats of everything from hail to heat waves to pass so that I could begin my quest to turn my daughter's badly neglected yard into a garden paradise. My daughter inherited this disaster when she moved in and I had always wanted to tackle it. Now that I was living closer and in a place with no garden of my own to tend to, this seemed like the perfect time.

I armed my two grandchildren with the tools of the trade and explained that, while Rome certainly wasn't built in a day, neither was a garden. It was going to take a lot of hard work and, of course, my accumulated knowledge from years of gardening (and gardening shows on TV) to turn this yard around. The first order of business was to tear it all out with the exception of some bushes, some small as-yet-unidentifiable trees, and anything that looked like an actual flower. Gloves on, digging tools in hand, we set to the task. I was all about the work, all about the vision, until ....

"Grandma! Come see!"

My 7 year old grandson, who thought worms and bugs were the most extraordinary things ever created, had unearthed the Mother Lode! Hundreds of bugs of all different sizes and species were busy going about their lives, having been hidden until now by the weeds. It did not take long for me to abandon my Puritan work ethic and just watch the little critters at work. Eventually, since old habits die hard, my ego reminded me that at this rate, not only would Rome not be built in a day, it wouldn't be built in a month! Reluctantly my grandson went back to work, although with not as much enthusiasm as he had while watching the bugs. After some more pulling and digging, another voice reached me from the other side of the yard:

"Grandma! What's this?"

My 10 year old granddaughter, sister to the bug enthusiast, was pointing to some small green objects on the ground. When we first started pulling things up, we discovered that the two garden beds, and many of the cracks in the pavement around the back steps, were covered in wild leeks. Since the ground water in the area where my daughter lives was adversely affected by the two floods that occurred here back in 2006 and 2011, mostly due to contamination from old commercial dry cleaning plants in the area, I knew that we should not be eating anything that had been growing in that ground. What a shame! In any case, in addition to the leeks, my granddaughter (who has visions of growing up to become the next Rachel Ray), had discovered that someone had been growing peas. They were scattered all over the ground underneath the foliage that, having no where to climb, had just covered any open ground it could find.

I stood back up for a moment and looked around the yard in awe. Someone, years ago, had planted a garden here. It was hard to tell because the majority of the yard had been planted over with grass, with a portion poured in concrete for a patio, and the whole thing overhung with trees. Yes, someone had done the back-breaking work that we were now doing to put in a garden that would feed their family, but that wasn't what amazed me. What amazed me was that, regardless of what humans had done to this land, nature had just kept doing what it does best. The insects continued to go about their business as they and all of their ancestors before them had done, and the plants had somehow found a way to continue despite all of mankind's attempts. When the roots of a leek are so strong that the plant can push its way up through a crack in the concrete, who are we to think we are smarter than that plant?

On Saturday, I sold my cleverness and purchased bewilderment. I forgot everything I thought I knew about growing a garden and, instead, marveled at the work of the Master Gardener and her army of insect helpers. I bowed in awe to Her genius and promised myself that, going forward, I would stop being a drill Sargent towards my little helpers - the bug specialist and the cook - and start being a grandma: keeper of the wisdom, teacher, and helper. Together we would not "build" a garden, we would "grow" a garden, and in that time together, we would grow up together as well.

May all your gardens in life be filled with wonder.

And so it is.

Monday, May 15, 2017

No Expiration Date

Image result for free image of seed packet
As I seem to have fallen behind on a few deadlines and need to get caught up, I offer this post taken from my ebook: "Staying Rooted: Living And Growing Through The Seasons Of Our Lives," available from

During my novice years learning to garden, and grow myself in the process along with the flowers and veggies, I became obsessed with learning everything there was to learn on the subject. Let's face it, I came to gardening later in life and felt I had a great deal of catching up to do. So I became an ardent fan of Victory Garden and HGTV, and read every book and magazine I could find. However, some of the best education and advice I got came from the gracious women I got to know in my adopted home town of Marathon, NY.  It would come in casual conversation and news shared with the neighbor next door, with the ladies picking up their mail at the post office, striking up a conversation at the grocery store about the weather and their gardens, visits to the meetings of the historical society and garden clubs, or whoever might be hanging out in Riley's Diner over a cup of coffee. There is nothing to compare with learning about gardening from those who have it in their blood passed down from generation to generation.

One of the things I learned that surprised me the most was that seeds packets have an expiration date. Really? Who would have thought? After all, to my inexperienced eye they already looked old and dried up. How did you tell if they had "gone bad?" Did they start to smell like old milk? Grow mold like forgotten leftovers in the back of the refrigerator? "You'll know," they told me, and indeed, I did ... when you plant them, nothing grows! Of course, there is also an expiration date on the seed envelope if you’re smart enough to look for it. Nothing like the obvious, right?

Thankfully, the same premise does not hold true for dreams: There are no expiration dates on dreams! It doesn't matter how long you've had them. True, you may have to take them down off the dark shelf of your mind where you've been hiding them all of these years and dust them off. You may even have to update them given today's technology or changing ideas. It doesn't matter if you are a novice, an old hand, or somewhere in-between. Dreams never lose their capacity to grow into something wonderful.

I think this is a perfect time of the year to reflect on this idea as we witness new birth and new beginnings. Plants have taken root and are starting to flourish. The new crop of baby birds, bunnies and our other animal relations have found their wings (or bunny feet) and are exploring their new world.

Find your wings.  Dust off those dreams. Get busy. And so it is.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Matter Of Perseverance

Eustomas in rain — Stock Photo #62771609

I'm almost as tired of writing about rain as I am having to look at it. Today, however, we are adding a new element ... snow flurries. Yes, you read that right; snow flurries ... in May.

Breaking News: The report of the arrival of Spring in our area is "fake news." Snow showers are predicted to mix in with yet more rain in the early morning hours.

Yesterday I spent some time at my daughter's house. My 10 year old granddaughter is as anxious as Grandma is to start tearing that yard apart and creating our garden. She is even more excited about getting started since she received an Easter Basket filed with gardening hand tools and a brand new pair of gardening gloves! She kept asking me: "Grandma, when can we get started? Is it ever going to stop raining?" I had to tell her that while Grandma may, indeed, be in her wisdom years, it does not extend to weather prediction or any insider information about what Mother Nature is trying to tell us. All I know is that it takes perseverance to be a gardener.

"Perseverance (noun): Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success."

I've head people tell me for many years that I must be crazy to be a gardener. You put your blood, sweat and tears, not to mention your back and knees, into creating this lovely living canvas only to see a wicked storm or frost destroy all of your hard work. What do I tell them? It's not about the finished product; it's about the process. It's about getting your hands in the dirt, pressing your fingers to the ground, and feeling the heartbeat of Mother Earth. It's about watching the birds and insects go about their business, which has a direct affect on our business; namely, the environment. It's about witnessing the miracle of growth from seed to bloom, from seedling to tomato, from sapling to tree. And if something comes along to tear it all up? You just grab a rake and a shovel, clean it up, and start again. Mother Nature does it all the time. Who are we to argue with that kind of success?

I often think about writing the same way that I think about gardening. There, too, I've had people tell me that writing is a useless profession: "You'll never make any money at it; only a handful ever make it to the Best Seller List." Absolutely. So why do it? For the gift of the process: for the joy of playing with words, of stringing them together to create a thought on paper, for the power of knowing that someone, somewhere, will read your words and be changed by them even if no one else ever does. I would go so far as to say that it takes even more perseverance to be a writer than to be a gardener because you often don't see the fruits of your labor before your eyes. Instead, you feel it in your heart.

The latest forecast has sunshine and 60 degrees returning mid-week into the weekend, just in time for Mother's Day. Hey, Mother Nature is no fool. She knows what she's doing. She's giving us a much needed lesson in faith ... with a little perseverance thrown in!

And so it is.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Starting From Scratch

I have a favorite guided meditation that I like to use when I am starting a project from scratch, or starting one over again after some hits and misses. The meditation is called "Starting Anew" from meditation teacher and author Davidji. The words of the meditation assure us that each of us deserves second chances (Note: Oh! Second Chances just happens to be the title of the second ebook in my Third Age Trilogy ... more on that to come). In the case of the job I am about to undertake, I'll need all the second chances I can get ... and third ... and fourth ... well, you get the idea.

Just like I admit to the fact that the baking gene skipped me and went to my daughters and my two granddaughters, my youngest daughter missed out on the gardening gene. In our family, she is known as the Black Thumb. We don't even let her babysit plants while we're away. She did manage to create a beautiful little fairy garden in a pot for me for Easter. Luckily it only had to stay in her house for a short time and my granddaughter kept watch over it. In any case, since I have moved into an apartment with no garden space available to tend this year, and windowsills not big enough for both plants and cats to sunbathe, I have decided to tackle my daughter's yard and turn it from an unidentifiable jungle into something pleasing to look at. It will be a place where the kids can play in nature and learn about growing organic food. This will challenge all of my gardening know-how and "thinking-outside-the-box" creativity. The garden has not been touched in years. Some things are unidentifiable and others have been so savagely hacked backed instead of pruned that they may never recover. Still, I am not deterred. Sometimes it takes starting again from scratch to give us an opportunity to sharpen our skills and see what we can create out of nothing.

I know there are times in our lives when we have to start over from scratch. We grow up and leave home requiring us to set up housekeeping for ourselves for the first time. Or, we get married and start a new life. We move to a new state, take a new job, go back to school, become a parent for the first time; so many ways in which we have to go back to basics and either learn something new or relearn something old. The thing to remember is that life gives us all what I like to call "Do-Overs," just  like the extra turns we got as kids when we were playing with our friends. When we start from scratch, we can create what we want the way we want it, not the way someone else said we should, or we can try something new and exciting. Life is nothing if it's not filled with adventure and exploration.

I invite you to find something in your own life that you could start from scratch to stretch your imagination and creativity. It's a wonderful feeling when we see our creation come to life and can say with pride: "I did that!" Of course in my case, a garden, even one as bad as this one, is easier to create than a batch of cookies, especially ones that could qualify as hockey pucks in the NHL ... word of honor! Happy creating.

And so it is.

P.S. About those ebooks. Keep your eyes open for an announcement soon of a sale on books One and Two of the Third Age Trilogy in anticipation of the release of book Three in the coming weeks. All are available from Amazon Kindle. I'll be posting the links and info soon. In the meantime, if you'd like to take a peek, just type Barb Parcells in the search and they will come up, along with my first book of favorite Flower Bear's Garden blog posts called: "Staying Rooted." More to come! Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Life In Fast Forward

I am a huge fan of award-winning cinematographer and producer Louie Schwartzberg. He calls his work "Moving Art," and art it certainly is. I have never been so moved by the videos of flowers in bloom, clouds passing in the sky, or watching an entire 24 hour day go by in one place in a matter of minutes. Time lapse photography has been around for many years. I can remember watching a Walt Disney special on TV when I was young about life in the desert. That was the first time I got to see a cactus bloom before my eyes, and a sand turtle baby hatching. Schwartzberg has taken it to a whole other level. He captures the moments that take our breath away.

I have often wondered if I would like to go back and see my life in time lapse like Louie's flowers. I suppose it would be fun to see my birth, childhood Christmases and birthdays that were special (like the year I got the Shirley Temple doll I asked for and cried for hours in joy), my favorite vacations and such. Would I want to see all my least favorite moments as well? Not so much, which begs the question: "Would I want to see what is ahead of me as well?" It's all very nice to watch a mushroom grow in front of our eyes, or watch a storm rolling in over the prairie, but would I want to see my grandchildren all grown, my daughters with grey hair, and my death? Would I want to see my life in fast forward?

Watching nature come to life before our eyes is a lovely experience, but watching our own lives is a moment by present moment experience. The goal is not to know how it ends. That is like knowing the end of a good book before you get there; you already know who did it, so why bother to read on? By the same thinking, why go after your dreams and experience all that life has to offer if you already know what will happen? Life is about the journey itself, not the end of it. I want to be surprised, just like I was when I got the Shirley Temple doll! I want to cry with joy, jump up and down in excitement, and screech with delight, at the moments that come into my life unexpectedly. That means I also have to be willing to accept the other not-so-happy moments that may come as well. It's called Life's Journey, not Life's Movie.

I'm still going to continue to enjoy Moving Art. It enables me to see things I may never get the chance to see in person. I can experience both the beauty and the fury of Mother Nature in all her glory. I'm also going to do my best to continue to enjoy my own Moving Life, in all of its glory and in all of its fury, except in this case, I get to see it all in person. That beats a movie any time.

And so it is.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Call to Bloom

Image result for free image of plant pushing through soil

Spring comes slowly to the Northeast. It struggles through days of sunshine and warmth as well as cold, snow and chilling rain. Sooner or later, though, the need to push through the soil, or burst out onto the branch, becomes so strong that nothing can hold it back any longer.
“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.”
Anais Nin
There is something that happens to us when we hear the songs of birds calling for their mates on a soft, breezy spring morning. There is hope in that breeze, and promise in that birdsong. There is a strong urge to answer an inner calling from our soul. We are being called to bloom as well.
We all get that inner urge to break out of that tight bud we have lived in for so long and spread our wings. Winter can feel as if it will last forever, and sometimes the winter of our souls feel the same way. Then one day we find that staying tight in that darkness, even if we think we are protecting ourselves from the cold, cruel world, hurts more than taking a chance in the bright light of spring. We know we must answer the call to bloom. That is when we have to trust that, just like the birds and the trees, spring will come again. We just let go, surrender to the timeless rhythms of life.
Yes, there will be ups and downs. Yes, some things will bloom perfectly and some won’t. Yes, some dreams will get off the ground and some won’t. Yet what a shame to never know all we can be. Don’t fight that call to bloom. Answer it. Who knows? You might do more than bloom. You might fly!
And so it is.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mending Fences

Image result for free images of broken fences

With the return of Spring, finally, I am enjoying getting back out there for my daily walks. I especially like to stroll through the neighborhood on the weekends so I can watch folks getting their yards ready for the season. Yesterday I saw one man tending to some damage from last month's late season snow storm. He was mending a fence that had broken under the weight of the snow and some fallen tree branches. Fence mending is an important aspect of gardening. It keeps the critters out and provides something for climbing plants to cling to. It also supports larger bushes and shrubs as they grow. Yep, fence mending is a very important job.

Watching that man reminded me of something I'd seen online last week. It was a video of a little girl about 5 years old who was explaining why it was important to be nice to people. She said that if you're mean to people you might: "break their feelings." I found that phrase to be very profound coming from one so young. I'm sure she'd heard grown-ups talking about not "hurting" some one's feelings, but "breaking" some one's feelings puts a different twist on it, because it follows that if you break something you need to fix it as well.

More often than not most of us do not set out to hurt some one's feelings. We may blurt something out without thinking, or react to our own hurt without considering all the innocent bystanders. Especially in these days of social media, it is easier to put something out there that is intended to inform or explain, but ends up being hurtful to someone who doesn't know your story and can't see your face or hear your tone when you say it. When we realize that we've "broken some one's feelings," we need to dig into our spiritual tool box and do some fence mending.

So what do you have in your tool box? Honesty, apology, love, understanding, consideration, putting yourself in the other's shoes, compassion, empathy? So many tools are at our disposal if we just take the time to admit our mistake, take responsibility for it, and mend those fences. If a well-mended fence can help support the plants in the garden, how much stronger can this garden that we call life grow?

I think I'll take another walk around the block and see how that man is making out. Maybe he can use some help.

And so it is.