FYI

Introduction

I wouldn’t say I’m a “restless” writer, but every once in a while, I feel myself begin to stagnate. And stagnation leads to laziness, which leads to procrastination which leads to anxiety which leads to depression which leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms and, eventually, death.

Yes, stagnation might as well be death.

I have had two blogs in the last 15 years. The first I retired after I got my (late) bachelor’s from college at the age of 31. It was a horrible first attempt at this medium, but I learned a lot and made some awesome friends. Shortly after the shuttering of blog #1, I discovered how much I missed writing, and A Pensieve View was born. It was better, but I believe it is time to move on.

As I’m staring down 40, on the cusp of empty-nesting, and having just completed the life-long dream of building a house, I am taking the opportunity to, once again, close the old chapter and begin writing the new. Lest I stagnate. And die.

It’s a chance to try some new approaches to this thing I love to do, and to make it more than just an online journal that centrally focuses on me, while in some ways, sharing more of myself than ever before.

I’d love the opportunity to share some of your story or recipes (or both!) here as well. Feel free to reach out to me about an interview on my “About” page. And, as always, I welcome your comments and thoughts and general praise.

Signed,

A.W.

Nature, Personal, Reflections

Sufficient

Perfectionism ruins lives.

It can be a driving force, certainly. A motivator. But when it becomes obsessive, it becomes dangerous.

Obsessive often goes hand in hand with anxious. One seeks to control something to a meticulous degree in order to combat the feelings of helplessness or insecurity in a different area altogether.

However….

There are times we have to learn to be satisfied with sufficient.

There isn’t a drop of rain in our forecast for the coming week. We know this. So, this morning, the sprinkler runs before the sun rises, giving necessary hydration to the new grass we planted only months ago.

At sunset, when the heat of the day begins to subside, I’ll soak my plants and flowers in preparation for the next day’s relentless August heat.

It’s not preferable to natural rainfall. But it is sufficient.

It requires effort.

When life isn’t giving what we need for sustenance, we have to work for sustainability.

In this season of life, I miss my friends. I miss our ability to gather and to meet and to hug and to be present together in a physical way.

I’m not a people person. Introvert – ah yes. That is my personality. But even introverts need sustenance. Interaction on more than a digital platform.

What I’m getting, while sufficient, is not the same as the organic.

The temptation then becomes to obsess over what is within my reach. But that becomes nothing short of wearisome over time.

Learning how to be satisfied with “sufficient” has been my life-long struggle.

I crave the rain. The heavy downpours that saturate and nourish and heal.

This artificial hydration has become loathsome and tiring.

The water being used to hydrate our plants is from a well, deep below the earth’s surface. And, likewise, I am digging deep within to find that which is sufficient for my own soul’s hydration.

In these moments, I begin to understand not only how important it is to not take people and things for granted – like the gathering of a book club or a hug between friends – but also, the importance of what we store within ourselves.

Daily doses of inspiration and spirituality and connection to nature.

These can be stored up, deep within, and drawn on in a dry season.

We can then become nourished. Resting in their sufficiency.

Until the rain returns again.

Personal, Reflections

Next steps

This week has been all about getting ready for an extremely different normal for our family in the weeks and months to come.

My only child leaves in one week to attend a residential high school for her Junior and Senior years.

She’ll be home every 4.5 weeks for the foreseeable future, as the juniors alternate with seniors for time on campus. But all the same, we are essentially starting the college life experience 2 years earlier than anticipated.

We are close, my daughter and I. And, while being a divorced parent I am used to some amount of time away from her, this is still going to be a major adjustment.

The household moods here at The Reverie have been a rollercoaster over the last couple of months. All 3 of us like to plan and have some degree of preparation for things we undertake.

I don’t need to tell you how the state of the world these days has made us all anxious and unable to lean on our preparedness skills for our usual coping mechanisms when it comes to life changes.

So we just do the things that, really, were all we could do any other time – take the next step in front of us.

During the week, these steps simply involve going to work. Eating meals. Taking time for things that nourish our minds and bodies and spirits.

On the weekends, more of the same except work means household chores and yard work, with some additional sprinkles of downtime and rest in-between.

I’ve tried to get better at not thinking too far ahead. What ifs do nothing but fuel the unrest of my soul and take me down rabbit holes that have no good destination.

Instead of focusing on big “to do” lists, I focus on what I’m doing right now.

At this moment, I’m enjoying an unusually non-muggy, comfortable 74 degree morning on the front porch. I have a steaming cup of coffee beside me as a sit in my rocking chair and type these words.

I can see my flower bed needs attention, so while I wait for my daughter to arrive safely at work this morning, I’ll pull weeds for a while.

Beyond that, anything is possible. My husband and I plan to don our masks and go purchase some items our daughter will need for her dorm room.

Wherever the day takes us, that is where we will go.

And at the end of the day, I will be sitting right where I am now. Watching the sun set, or listening to the whippoorwills sing as the night falls.

Many things are changing. Some will not.

How I start my day, how I end my day – these little routines are what keep me sane during a pandemic or any other time.

I will continue to cling to these things. I will plan when I can, and exercise faith both in times of certainty and the unknown.

I will write. I will exercise. I will drink water. I will smile. I will be silly. I will take every moment that is given to me and cherish it.

I will check on my friends and family. I will make sure they know I think of them, even when I cannot see them.

I will practice gratitude for my life and for the seasons that inevitably bring good from them, even when they feel like the silver lining is not evident.

I will greet and end the day on those notes of gratitude. And I will continue to take the next step in front of me, and walk in hope, faith, and love.

This is all I can do. All I could ever do. And it is enough.

Art and Media, Latest Picks, Personal

Latest picks

I’ve leaned heavily on all sorts of art mediums during the last few months. Because self-care takes many different forms, mine includes spending some time ingesting things that aren’t ALWAYS informative, but they can be. With some pure “fluff” thrown in for good measure.

Here are some of my indulgences from the last few weeks/months:

Music

Everyone is all abuzz about the new Taylpr Swift album, “folklore”. I’ve been through more than half the album and it really does have some unique and interesting elements. I was most interested to hear her collaboration with Bon Iver, and it absolutely did not disappoint.

However, I’m still in “Lover” mode when I am in a Swiftie frame of mind right now. There is so much feel-good music on this album that it is a go-to when I’m feeling particularly blah.

I’m 38 and I like Tay Tay, okay? I also have a 16 year old daughter influencing my music right now, but I have mad respect for Swift and her ability to continually reinvent herself – one of the hallmarks of any artist with staying power.

There have been a lot of musical artists over the years that I didn’t love in their heyday and came to appreciate in later years. Swift is no exception. Her transformation and transition into pop music has drawn me in slowly over time. She really is a brilliant songwriter – clever, soulful, deep.

In short, I am not ashamed of being a Taylor Swift fan.

Books

I have shared my previous three selections here on the blog, but right now I’m in the middle of two vastly different stories.

On audio, I’m listening to a recommendation from a friend:

When I found out Reese Witherspoon had acquired the rights to this one, I knew it would be good, in addition to trusting the recommendation from my friend.

Look, it’s not going to go down as classic fiction or anything, but for me, so far (I’m about 40% through it), this has been the quintessential summer book. It’s easy to follow, the characters aren’t super deep, and it’s about a huge con being played out on a wealthy couple.

You can’t take a book like this too seriously. It is sheer entertainment and fluff. And, quite honestly, I need both at times. It’s just suspenseful enough that, at 8 chapters in, I texted my friend praising it saying, “I’m already wondering, ‘What is this crazy b*tch going to do next?!”

On the flip side of this genre, is a dark and chilling read that I’ve been putting off for years. I actually downloaded it, thinking it was also audio, but it is only available as an e-book on Google, so I finally dove in this week:

I have never read this series or seen any of the movies. It’s pop culture references are iconic, and I’m definitely starting to understand why.

The second chapter explained the famous “horse head” incident and, let me just say, I was hooked from that moment.

I was a little afraid, in the beginning, it was going to be difficult to keep all the characters straight. But, as it turns out no worries were warranted.

When I was a kid, I could tune out every single distraction when I was reading, to the point that I didn’t even notice my own name being said. I don’t have that ability much these days, but when I can sit in the den while my husband watches television and not become distracted from my pages, I know I’ve hit literary gold.

Such is the case here.

These books and films were also some of my late grandfather’s favorites. He typically gravitated toward westerns – Louis L’Amour and John Wayne. For him to deviate from his usual preferences should have been an indicator to start the books sooner, but no matter. I’m starting them now. I just wish I could discuss them with him because that is something he and I never shared like I do with my still living grandmother – conversation over great books.

I have about 100 pages left in the first novel and I have a feeling the biggest shockers are left to come.

Podcasts

When I need an audiobook break or I’m just feeling the need for something different, I switch to podcasts during my commute.

Office Ladies is fun. Period. And I’ve learned so much about the background of one of television’s most popular and iconic series.

Listening to these two hosts and their guests that have included costars, writers and directors from the show, I have come to understand just how unique this series was for it’s time. How brilliant the minds behind it.

It’s like spending time with friends: relaxing, fun, and stress-free. If you’re a fan of The Office, it’s a must listen-to.

This podcast was recommended to me by my sweet cousin, Katie. The hosts, writers for various well-known publications, take a different event or cultural phenomenon from previous years and revisit what has been lost about the truth and facts behind it.

I have learned a lot from listening to this particular podcast, and I always love the humor and earnestness with which each episode is approached. Plenty of sarcasm and snark also, which is a plus when dealing with some of these topics that people have gotten so high and mighty about over the years.

It’s never too late to learn something you didn’t know.

Which leads me to:

Television

My husband doesn’t recommend things for me to watch very often, so when he does, I pay attention.

A few weeks ago, we watched the 3 episode documentary on Ulysses S. Grant which aired on the History Channel.

I. Loved it.

All I’d ever heard growing up was that General Grant was a drunkard.

That was the extent of my “knowledge” about the man.

But these accounts were from people that are still pretty pissed that my section of the country lost the Civil War, so….

History has been spun so much since the War between the States, especially in the south.

My home state of Mississippi just in the last few weeks has stopped flying it’s state flag, the last in the country to bear the stars and bars of the Confederate battle flag.

I was elated at this decision by our legislators.

It seemed like a good time to open my eyes further and learn about some of the individuals in the Civil War that I knew nothing about.

Grant was a man. A flawed human being, just like everyone else in either a blue or grey uniform at that time. But he was a brilliant military mind, at the very least. I learned SO much from this series and enjoyed it, thoroughly.

Once we finished the documentary, we are now viewing the first of this series to air:

My husband has seen this one already, but agreed to rewatch it with me since I enjoyed the one about Grant so much.

All I can say is, “Wow.”

It ain’t all wooden teeth and Father of our Country, Martha! So much background info. This is also proving to be a fantastic series that I look forward to finishing.

When I’m invested in a series for pure entertainment value, these have been my picks of late…

I have had a fascination with the royal family since I was a little girl and fell in love with Princess Diana.

This series is so beautifully written and so much of it is taken from history, it is simply a delight to watch.

The first two seasons were my favorites, set when Elizabeth began her reign. Watching Matt Smith in his role as the Duke of Edinburgh was also a motivating factor because I love the man. His Doctor (Doctor Who) will forever be my favorite but I was excited to see what he brought to a role like this and he didn’t disappoint.

I’m almost through with the available episodes and anxiously await the release of the 4th season.

Finally, what I thought would be pure entertainment turned out to wreck me…

A limited series run on Amazon, Fleabag is raunchy, hilarious, and heartbreaking.

The cast is perfection.

But the writing? My god, the writing is beyond good. It is excellent.

This series is the very definition of “raw”. About relationships. Grief. Family. Sex. And just the experience of being a complicated human being.

I binged this series (only 2 seasons) quickly, but it left it’s mark on me, for sure.

…………………………………………………………

So there you have it. My mix of informative and fluff, entertaining and educational experiences of the last few weeks and months that have kept me from losing my sanity and given me hours of immersion in other realities or my own imagination.

Would love to hear about yours in the comments.

Personal

Hope springs eternal

The summer is slipping on by. Even as we face more uncertain days ahead, the clock never fails to keep ticking, seasons changing, or sunsets descending below the horizon.

I’ve spent the last month and a half working on my physical self. Walking many miles. Trying to get better quality sleep.

My writing, however, has been reduced to only the occasional work email or epistle-length facebook post.

Nearly every day for the last several months, I have come home from work and set about some task. On the weekends, I rest some but I stay busy. Overall, it’s been healthy and productive. Mostly physically, but, to an extent it’s been distracting for my mental health as well. In good and bad ways.

My innate response to stress and uncertainty is to distract myself. I generally accomplish this with busyness. Sometimes that is the healthiest way for me to deal with things beyond my control – by controlling something I can. But, at the end of the day, those untameable variables are still there.

And so am I.

Truthfully, writing has taken a back seat for the last year or so. After building The Reverie, in turn, I built this new blog from scratch and have barely touched it.

I want to dive in, but I hold back. Self-analyze. Become overly critical.

And then I just leave it in the drafts.

And eventually, I delete it.

I’ve done it again and again. For months.

I know, in my heart of hearts that the only way through this roadblock is to simply write. Create. Edit if I must. And then just put it out there.

I am struggling with why, all of a sudden, this part of me feels so vulnerable. Unsure. Uncertain.

Nothing feels good enough anymore.

What could I possibly say that would matter right now, in a world that feels, more and more every day, like it’s about to spin completely off its axis?

How can I share my quiet little observations, or stories, or recipes, or whatever when there is so much pain, and worry, and frustration and anger circulating?

Why would I do that? Why would I share the part of me that feels exposed every time I hit “Publish” with a world that shows me, daily, just how cruel and apathetic and intolerant it is?

I can’t not write. I can’t not express and convey and share and spin language into something. It is who I am. Suppressing this need, either consciously or subconsciously only exacerbates the feelings of unrest in my soul.

My heart has ached for weeks upon weeks. For my health-compromised friends and family. For my healthcare worker friends and family. For the ones that are teachers. For the ones that are caregivers. For the ones that are black. The ones that are former and current law enforcement officers. Even the ones that are elected officials.

All of them. Dealing with things I can’t imagine.

I read and I watch the news and I try to be a voice of reason and positivity and silliness and stay out of arguments and maintain my baptismal vows to respect the dignity of every human being, even when we disagree.

It’s draining. Soul-sucking. And then, when I go to a blank page to give something of myself….I find there is nothing left.

Or if there is, it feels hollow. Empty.

Maybe, writing is a struggle right now because it would cause introspection that I’m not ready or willing to experience – that by giving voice to my own fears and anxieties, they will simply become all too real.

All of us, every one, is navigating some kind of new normal.

I guess I thought my writing would not really change, even as the world does.

But writing, like every other living thing, is capable of evolution and adaptation and resilience.

Because writing isn’t about the post. Or the article. Or the book. Just like life isn’t about the titles or the degrees or money or any tangible thing.

Writing….is about the writing.

And life – life is about the living.

And somehow, some way, these two things will coexist together again in my world.

Both will require different things than they did before.

Deeper understanding.

Higher levels of empathy

More determination to look for and cling to the positive.

And a certain level of fearlessness and resolve.

As a writer, I draw inspiration from nature, from other writers, and from my own life experience.

As a human being, it is no different.

I feel as though these two parts of myself have been in conflict more than they have been in sync and harmony.

It is time for them to come together again. To bring wholeness to my heart. Peace to my inner artist that has long been denied her medium of expression.

It is time to reawaken the hope that breeds creativity.

Now, more than ever.

The picture above is of a plant I set out some months ago. It has barely endured the stifling heat of the cruel Mississippi summer.

The leaves had turned brown. By all accounts, it looked completely unsalvageable.

But I’m a determined woman. And gardner.

So I kept watering. Even when it looked like I was pouring water into death.

And then, from nowhere…..life. Beauty. Hope.

May it be. May it be for us all.

Current Events, Reflections

The Whole Story

I didn’t have any black friends when I was growing up.

In fact, my family moved from the deep south to Oklahoma before I was 2 years old and my mother said the first time I saw a black person, I just stared and stared.

While we lived in western Oklahoma, we were exposed to quite a bit of Native American culture, though I don’t remember many historical details. I DO, however, remember my parents taking the time to take me and my sister to various sites around the state and beyond to learn about Native American culture.

We also attended church with a Native American family. I remember being in awe of the father and how tall he was, how dark his hair and eyes were, and how large his presence felt to me.

We attended several ceremonial dances during our time out west, and I especially loved watching the little girls in their native costumes with beads and bells swinging and chiming in rhythm with the drum beats. Their black hair offset by turquoise and silver, rawhide and leather. I distinctly remember hearing the songs and chants and feeling that music resonate throughout my entire being.

I never feared this race, even though they were different from myself. Nothing about them felt threatening or “other”, they were just who they were – and I appreciated those differences without thinking about it, simply through the exposure to their culture.

When I was 11, we moved back to Mississippi. Needless to say, the variations in race demographics here in the south were much different than western Oklahoma was in the 1980’s.

But for all of the African American influence and culture of this region in particular, other than a few, and I mean a VERY FEW, notable historical figures such as George Washington Carver, I was not exposed to anything but a very white

history of the country as a whole, and, more specifically, the part of the country where I grew out of adolescence and into adulthood.

I’ll be honest: I had a very sheltered childhood. Other than the aforementioned exposure to Native American culture, my family did not surround ourselves with too many people that were different than ourselves, and we damn sure didn’t have

any black friends.

We visited many antebellum sites, confederate battlefields, halls of legislation, museums – but there was very little mentioned about the black history that accompanies these sites until very recent years.

I know some people that have become agitated that black history has become more and more discussed in national, regional, and state-wide history. For example, I know people that love to visit antebellum homes but have become increasingly agitated through the years because they are “tired of hearing about slavery all the time.”

I have family members that claim to not be racist, yet every word they speak about race drips with ignorance – most of it willful, because these are not stupid people, but able to read, comprehend, and understand difficult concepts. And

yet they cling to their belief systems like a lifeboat, even in the face of repeated instances of injustice, profiling and brutality.

“We don’t know the whole story.”

This has been the refrain of so many in recent weeks. And it has never been more obviously true. A LOT of my white friends and family, AND MYSELF – we don’t know the whole story. We never have. Mostly because we get “tired of hearing about slavery”. And maybe because somewhere, buried deep in our hearts, we fear the unknown and what it might reveal.

Instead of listening, we look for excuses, anything to make us feel better, ease our collective conscience.

Worse than that, though – maybe we just don’t care.

In just the last couple of years, a Civil Rights Museum opened in Jackson, MS.

In just the last couple of years.

It has taken over 150 years for there to be a singular place dedicated to the telling and examination of black history in the state that has the highest percentage of African Americans in the nation, second only to Washington D.C.

I have only in the last few years really begun to recognize my own level of apathy for the black race, and my own blindness to the continuing injustices that African Americans face on a daily basis.

I’ve seen black women feel unable to speak up about issues they are having with coworkers or superiors because they are afraid of only being seen as “the angry black woman”.

I know black mothers of boys especially that fear for the lives of their children for no other reason than because of how they look.

I’ve seen black candidates with more experience and better qualifications passed over for local elected positions by white men for no other reason than ignorance.

I’ve listened to stories of how different blacks are treated in the legal system than whites, and their fears of simply being pulled over for no apparent reason or a minor traffic infraction and I recognize, more and more, how our national institutions have been saturated by racism.

I see these things, I witness them with my own eyes, hear them with my own ears, and they don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what happens in our own companies, our own communities, every. Single. Day.

If it wasn’t a problem, you would not be witnessing a national uprising.

Thoughts about any one case recently in the news aside, thoughts about the correct or incorrect ways of protesting aside, a national revolution does not show up spontaneously, or because of one or two singular incidents. It only presents after decades of oppression.

I often wonder how my life might be different if I had been exposed to as much Black culture as I was that of Native Americans. And I don’t place blame on my parents for this lack of exposure.

For one, the resources, as I’ve said, have only in recent years become more prevalent. But I also recognize the way they were raised and the belief systems they learned that continued to present in the ways they raised me and my sister. It is simply the way it was, and I have the capability to educate myself about these things now.

I have to capability to educate my own daughter.

And, perhaps more importantly, my parents instilled within me a very passionate drive about the things I believe in. They taught me how to question and listen and understand other points of view and appreciate other cultures.

And exposure to other cultures isn’t the only way to combat racism and bigotry. Because, above all, my parents taught me how to love.

Unconditionally. With fervor and purpose.

And sometimes love is a learned behavior.

It’s time to hear the whole story. All of it. Even when it hurts or makes us uncomfortable or calls into question things we may have believed all our lives.

Even when we are apathetic.

Even when we don’t care.

Especially when we don’t care.

Not because black demands it. Not because white demands it.

Because Love demands it.

Reflections

On the Rocks

The need for validation in most of us is strong. I don’t know where it originates, or why. Something prevalent or lacking in our childhoods, perhaps. Maybe it’s just part of societal conditioning.

Whatever the reason, it seems that the majority of us have at least a small need for it.The innate need to be “right” is a powerful and dangerous thing. It alienates more than it aligns, it divides more than it brings together, and it never leaves room for the possibility of another point of view.

If I hope for anything for my future, it’s that I can continue to let go of that energy-sucking habit of proving my own opinions to others and, instead, be the listener. The observer. And the one that lives her convictions and lets them do the talking for her. Because I don’t know of a single person that’s even been persuaded by one of my arguments in the past. But I know I have said plenty of things that I wished I had just kept to myself.

I believe words matter. I’m a writer. Words are like breath. It’s partially why I’m sharing these thoughts. But they aren’t the most important thing.For a long time, I was sad that my husband didn’t communicate like I do. Compared to me, he is relatively quiet.

There is a book on marriage about love languages. And it’s a beautiful concept that I know has helped many a relationship. But here’s a strategy that it doesn’t mention, and one that I think deserves some contemplation.

What if, instead if trying to learn your partner’s love language so you can give your love in a way they like and accept, you learn how to accept the love language they offer and feel most natural giving and make your own heart do the growing on the receiving end?

The question then becomes not “How are you showing love?” but rather “How are you receiving love?”

Over the years, and it’s a lesson that continues, I’ve learned to appreciate the ways that my husband best feels he can express his feelings. Sometimes, it’s nothing like I think it should be or, earlier in our marriage would have preferred. But somehow, I’ve learned to lean into him and vice versa.

We are imperfect people in an imperfect marriage. For years, I tried to explain the concept of validation to him. He is a stubborn student.

No worries, I am a stubborn teacher.

Thus, the rift widened.

Then came The Reverie.

We had talked about building a house one day since we were first dating. It was a dream we both had and one we could only achieve together.After several months of preparation and discussion, we swallowed our fear and went for it.The project required more patience, more meeting of the minds than we’d ever had to practice before.

They say that if a couple can survive building a house together, they can survive anything. I don’t know about that, but here’s what I do know:It changed us.

It reawakened the sides of ourselves that first drew us to one another.

You see, my husband and I used to work together. In fact, he was my boss. And we worked as a team so easily, so complimentary – we eventually fell in love.

Shortly after we married, he took a job in retail. Worked 60 hour weeks, was never home, and we passed like ships in the night.

It’s taken years and years to recover from the damage that the stress and frustration of that period of our lives took on our relationship.

It has taken even longer for us to learn how to receive love from one another as it is intended from the one giving it without being bitter and resentful that it didn’t take the shape we thought we wanted.

I’m sure he still wishes I would do things a certain way, and I have days where I feel that way towards him, but there has been a grace envelope this marriage over the last couple of years that has helped us not only achieve the lifelong dream of building something of our own, together, but helped us to be happy and content and thrive once it was finished.

This past weekend, I started a yard project. In my head, I knew it involved ground cover and large river rocks and small pebbles and my stone figure of Saint Francis, but I didn’t have nearly enough rock to finish it.

Sunday evening, we moved rock after heavy rock. Dug in the tough clay and sand until we had blisters and sore backs. After my husband had helped me, I could sense his distaste for how it looked. I took it badly.

I am good at envisioning how a project will look. I can read a recipe and know if it sounds like something I’d like. He needs visuals. Pictures.

He wasn’t seeing the finished project.

I gave him some grief about it. I had done a lot of planning and research and put a lot of effort into the project. The next morning, I gave him more grief, this time I was mostly kidding. Told him I’d finish it and promised that it would look good. Eventually.

When I got home from work that evening, he had made a 40+ mile round trip to get the materials needed to mostly finish it. Instead of walking away from the project, leaving me to figure it out on my own, he leaned into it. Into my vision. And the end result is unique and pretty and the beginning of a beautiful bed that will highlight our home and the natural landscape on which she rests.

He could have just told me that he knew it would look great. That he appreciated what I was trying to do for the yard with my project.

And for all that words matter to me, honestly, it would have been enough.

For some reason, he found it easier to go buy 30 bags of rocks to fill in the space and help me finish it.

It is not lost on me that this non-meeting of the minds occured over what is, essentially, a rock garden. There are few plants that will thrive in such harsh conditions. I chose mine carefully, mindfully, and it’s still a gamble. Will they survive? Only time will tell. But I do my part to facilitate an environment that compliments their nature, their instincts, and their beauty.

This philosophy is spilling over into my marriage too, with every passing season. Teaching me how to not get riled when my husband isn’t being like I think he should be.

And it’s trickled over into other areas of my life. I find that I am no longer driven by a need to be right, as much as I am driven by the need to be kind. Because people very rarely remember your point of view, but they do remember your kindness, or lack of it.

Other people have helped me shape this lifestyle too, for better or for worse. There are plenty of people in the world that think they know best. What we need more of, are people that are willing to just be their best.

I don’t think we can ever overestimate how much people need to simply be met where they are. To be accepted, loved, but also to be willing to get in the rocks with them, lean in, and hold space for them.

More often than not, this requires more thought, more patience, and more sacrifice than showing love in other ways. Ways that might not translate the way we intend.

But so does the receiving of love require a measure of grace for the intention behind it.

When we can appreciate that intention, and the effort it took to show it, our hearts begin to change. Expand. Soften.

Love is transformative that way. We simply have to be willing to allow it in, whatever shape it takes, and let it do the rest.

It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

Nature, Reflections

The Birth of a Flower Child

Multi-generational Iris from my great-grandmother’s garden in the MS Delta

This week, I kidnapped my mom and took her with me to run some errands. As part of my Mother’s Day gift to her, I covered her total at the nursery/garden center, spring fever having hit us both.

Flower gardening never seemed like a skill that was within my reach. My mom had beautiful rose bushes and planted some beautiful cottonwoods in the vast nothing that comprised the land around my childhood home. My grandmother had Lillies and Iris and Sweet William around her home. I even remember visiting my great-grandmother’s old homeplace, just up the road from me now, and as a child I was delighted by the plants that still bloomed, long after she had died.

My first mother-in-law has one of the most talented green thumbs I’ve ever known. When her son and I were married, every single spring and summer her yard was positively alive with color from Impatiens, Zinnia, Petunia, Roses, and more. I spent many an evening at the home of my in-laws, positively inspired by the way they worked that yard together.

It wasn’t until I remarried and moved into my husband’s house that I began to really get the bug for yard work and trying my hand at various flora.

But nearly every year since, for my birthday or Mother’s Day, my husband has gotten up early on a Saturday morning and dropped more coin than he probably intended at the garden center, perusing the shelves with me to find a new experiment for our yard.

He built me two flower beds at that house. One housed bulbs that once resided at my great-grandparents’ home in the Mississippi Delta. The other, we changed out seasonally, usually settling on Coleus as it seemed to thrive the best in that location.

One of our most exhausting endeavors, around 10 years ago or so, was the planting of Crepe Myrtles along the driveway. In truth, they were the hardest things to leave behind at the old house when we moved. They had indeed been a labor of love for us both, and they weren’t even close to living up to their potential when we handed over the keys to the new owner of the house. As I drive by there these days, I see, though, that the older lady who bought our home is an experienced gardener, and is taking pristine care with the things we left in her care.

The yard of The Reverie is a blank slate. Mostly clay, no shade except from the house itself, and will require a lot of attention in the coming years to become transformed into the landscape we visualize for it.

I suppose we could have left room in the budget for a professional to come in and make it look like something from Better Homes and Gardens magazine. But where is the fun in that?

There is something innately satisfying to build something out of nothing. To leave a beautiful mark on one’s surroundings, and give back to Mother Earth with your own blood, sweat and tears.

As Mother’s Day approaches, the similarities between developing green thumb skills and maternal skills are not lost on me.

So much of both experiences is experimental. I’ve learned, over time, what works and what doesn’t, and the lessons never stop. As new types of plants and unfamiliar soil types brings new challenges to the gardening skills I’ve developed, so do new experiences, aging, and the beginning stages of releasing my offspring into the unknown bring challenges to my constantly-evolving skillset as a mother.

Watching my own mom care for her mother these last several years has taught me that I can expect the lessons and challenges to continue. Always. You never stop learning as one who tries to nurture what (and who) surrounds you.

I have had my share of failures. Pushing my will onto something or someone that wasn’t designed for my own ideas.

When my husband built my first flower bed, I spent countless spring, summer and fall seasons trying to bend that bed to my vision. I lamented to a fellow mom and gardening guru who suggested I just set out various bulb types, and let them do their thing.

I didn’t listen. At first. But as my mounting frustration and bills at the nursery grew, I finally succumbed to her good advice.

My grandmother helped me dig up those generational Iris bulbs, and Amaryllis, and Lillies, and I lovingly set them beneath the earth, covered them with mulch, and waited.

What happened in the seasons to follow never ceased to delight and surprise me. Those blooms came back, year after year, dividing and multiplying, eventually taking over the bed in a sea of green stalks. As a result, I was able to bring some of them with me when we said goodbye to our first home. And the lesson of working with the plant, with the soil, and not against it, stayed with me.

Just as countless gardeners have inspired me in my lifetime until I dared to try it myself, so many mothers have left their indelible mark on my life.

Some children mold to their parents ideals. Mine has had a mind of her own since she emerged from the womb. And we have had many a season of conflicting visions.

I still have a tendency to want to push my agenda onto hers. But I cannot. It does not result in blooms, only evidence of a life that exists, but doesn’t thrive, before it gives up.

I’ve realized through the years that organisms that need “babying” are not my forte. So I’m learning to lean into the skill of preparing, planting, watering, and letting go. Pruning, when necessary, but mostly just allowing the creation to breathe, find it’s roots, and bloom.

Just like all the gardeners and moms did and continue to do for me along the way.

Reflections

No particular order

One of the last things I’ve done following getting moved in to the new house has been finally, FINALLY, getting loose photos into albums.

Back before we could select the best, then crop, size and filter exactly what we wanted to print, we’d just get an envelope full of photos that may or may not be “frame worthy”.

I had more than a dozen of such envelopes to sift through Sunday evening, and with the exception of some that were too blurry to make out the image, I placed most of them inside my albums, in no particular order.

To the side, I made a stack of photos that I decided to throw away. Some were duplicates, others were of memories that it was time to relinquish. A former life, if you will.

I don’t need them. The images in those photos are in my memory, and when those memories are forgotten due to the passing of time or the passing of me, they will never be missed. I was the only one who took them, knew they existed, and have the sole authority on whether or not they serve any purpose. They are not painful memories to reflect upon, just…..irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The only thing of which they remind me is how seasonal friendships can be. How rare true, life-long bonds are in this life. And I don’t need photos to reiterate that. It’s a lesson I learned a long time ago.

The pictures of my daughter when she was a baby and toddler and then little girl always make me smile. Between my husband and I, we’ve captured an eclectic and honest overview of her personality at those ages, and traits she still has to this day.

The silliness, the sincerity in those big, blue eyes, the singular focus and concentration when engrossed in a project, and, of course, the chaotic energy that has always surrounded her. I laughed as I put several blurry pictures in the albums of her, but that was all I could get sometimes. The child was perpetually in physical motion.

This isn’t the case so much anymore now that she’s a teenager, but that mind of hers never stops. So some things are still very much the same.

I found photos of me with my daughter, taken by my husband in some of the most normal, everyday moments. Baking something together, playing in the pool when she was little, me helping her unwrap birthday presents before those little hands would get frustrated by the tape and also so I could remind her to say “thank you” to the gifter.

These simple, ordinary moments are what life is made of, and those pictures are always some of my very favorites. The ones that people don’t realize are being taken. The ones they don’t have time to pose for or show themselves in their best light.

I hate pictures of myself. I rarely feel pretty or photogenic in any way, but I’m learning, in that regard, that it really doesn’t matter. The photos that are taken OF me are not FOR me, and the ones that they are for love me as I am, with no filters or editing necessary.

We take pictures of beautiful things because our eyes love beautiful things. Nothing wrong with that. But we take pictures of life for one reason, and one reason only: to remember.

Our memories are like my albums – jumbled together in a collection that comprises a life.

As I looked through mine, even the ones I ended up discarding, I have no regrets. Every season has taught me something new, or brought me new joys, or simply enriched my existence.

These frozen moments in time don’t need order in their assembly. They need only to be kept, cherished, and remembered for all their ordinary beauty.

Nature

Colorful Threads

I have never lived in a city limits. I have lived on a blacktop road, but it was still 5 miles from town and a major highway.

The road I live on now has been “paved” for less than 20 years. I say “paved” because it is under management by county government and, while they do the best they can (so they say), it ain’t a road on which you want to take your Mercedes on a leisurely Sunday drive. Most of our neighbors and we ourselves are more of the pickup truck and SUV driving variety.

Don’t make the assumption that, because of our choice in transportation, we are of the ignorant, “redneck” variety.

While there are some of those in the area, to be sure, the majority of the people in our community are just good ol’ “country folk”.

They don’t live above their means. They help their neighbors. They enjoy the outdoors and respect nature. Many have livestock, gardens, and have little need for frivolity. Unless it’s a high-end ATV with which to ride the land and cross creeks and, occasionally, play in the mud.

Many of them are skilled tradesmen, college educated, and could out-work any person you put beside them.

The foliage now is a rich and bright green, having just put on its new growth for the year. Aside from the wild privet hedge that tries to kill me via allergy attacks once a year, the scent of honeysuckle permeates the breeze, and wildflowers are showing off while knockout roses and azaleas are proving that all the rain we received in February and March proved useful for something.

It’s the quietest place I’ve ever known. Traffic is minimal. The birds, cows, and insects are generally the only noise to contend with and there is an unsmothered environment at all times. Even when the sweltering humidity arrives in August.

This past week, we’ve had some beautifully clear and cool evenings, perfect for star gazing. Having grown up in such a hot climate, I love shade, but having the unobstructed view that we have here at The Reverie, I look forward to the meteor showers that promise to be spectacular to observe from our vantage point.

Moving into the new place in the springtime has been timed perfectly. I have already been able to take advantage of the cool, peaceful mornings on the front porch, coffee cup in hand, to center my soul before heading off to the fluorescent lights and glaring screens of a computer monitor and noise of a busy office for 8+ hours.

The wildlife in these parts is so enmeshed within the landscape, it is never a rare sight to see wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, possums, raccoons, squirrels, and even the occasional bobcat or coyote on any given day.

“Watch for deer.” is how we say “I love you.” during the late summer through early winter in these parts, lest you need a new bumper for your car.

We have lived here just over a month, and my husband has been a bit disgruntled with a bird that has already tried to take up residence atop one of the new floodlights. But we’re in the territory of nature now. And they, as they have done for thousands of years, simply incorporate themselves into the changes to their environment and use whatever we have brought to their own benefit whenever possible.

Pretty resourceful when I think about it. And a perfect lesson for us all as so many face new and often unwelcome adjustments to daily life. Will we adapt and grow and use whatever we can for our own evolution? Or will we allow it to deter us from making the best life we can for ourselves and those we love?

Over the years, nature has taught me many such lessons, given me so much food for thought and surges of inspiration.

As I settle in, and allow my roots to expand and take hold of the deep, rich environment that now encircles me, I breathe deeply and know, no matter what changes lay ahead, I am exactly where I need to be to face them.