I couldn't stay away! :) I just wanted to post a quick update about my back because a couple of people had asked.
I had a microdiscectomy done a little over two weeks ago to remove the disc material that was compressing the nerve root at L5. The neurosurgeon said it had to be done to minimize the risk of permananent damage to my already weak foot/ leg. It all went very well and I can honestly say I feel better than I have in months. I guess sometimes you doesn't realize how bad you feel until you start feeling better! I am still taking it a bit easy, probably wont finish landscaping the backyard quite yet, but I already have some strength back in my foot and leg, and I can feel my toes again which is an added benefit! :)
The garden is looking awesome with all the seeds I planted back in the fall thriving at last. I can't wait to get out there and do stuff but I will wait for a bit longer. This picture is from a week ago and everything has grown a lot, even since then.
In other news, the girls are doing well, very excited about the holidays of course. We are having a very scaled back Christmas this year which I am looking forward to, less of everything is the plan. I have my math final this week thank goodness, and I jammed with friends this afternoon, something I hadn't done in a while because of my back. Life is getting back to "normal" again, whatever that may be. I am extremely fortunate in so many ways.
My heart hasn't really been in my blog for a long time now despite a couple of attempts at returning after taking a break. I don't feel as though I have much to say that I haven't said already in regards to my attempts at trying to live more sustinably in the suburbs.
It is harder than it may seem, living sustainably in the suburbs. Not that I don't do many small things that I hope will make a difference like trying to grow food, buying locally, using green products, reducing, reusing and recycling... etc etc.
I have yet to make a significant dent on the two things that would make the most difference and these are driving, and reducing energy use in our home. I still find it difficult to reduce driving to a level that would be conserving much energy because.... well, I live in the suburbs where there is little reliable public transport, and where one is literally taking ones life in ones own hands by cycling. We also still use an astounding amount of energy cooling our home in the summer despite keeping our house at 83 degrees, and keeping it shuttered up like a cave during the hot months. Unless we get a solar system installed this isn't going to change, and that isn't a prospect for the forseeable future due to how much it would cost to install. Sad but true.
So for now I will have to make do with what I have already achieved and continue to dream of a move away from the suburbs one day when practical for my family. Perhaps then I will feel as though I am achieving more than I currently am in an attempt to save this beautiful world of ours. Perhaps then I will also return to blogging.
I will still be checking in with all the blogs out there that I love and thank you!
The girls and I did the Scottsdale Walk to defeat ALS this past weekend. It isn't a long walk, only a couple of miles, but the whole point lies in the fact that we were able to walk it, unlike my cousin and others who are forced to live with ALS.
We raised $1,605 dollars for the Arizona Chapter of the ALS Association, way more than I imagined we could raise, and I am very grateful to those who contributed to such a worthy cause. It was a very special morning for us all, very emotional at times, and my cousin Alison was never far from my thoughts, though she is never far from my thoughts anyway.
In other news I have almost managed to plant my fall garden now. I still have swiss chard, spinach, lettuce and cabbage to plant. It is going to be cooler today, low eighties, so I am looking forward to doing that later with the girls. It will feel good to get it all planted at last though I have to admit it has been a good exercise in patience for me too.
The half landscaped backyard is driving me crazy but I am having to let it go for now. It probably wont get finished until next year but that it O.K and I am focusing on the parts that are finished and enjoying all the birds, some of which seem to be building nests again despite the time of year.
My back is about the same. I have a referral to a surgeon in two weeks time and I am glad though I never imagined I would be someone who needed back surgery. I have always believed in the bodys innate ability to heal itself but realistically there are occasions when this is simply not going to happen. How lucky we are that so much can be done these days. I think we often take modern medicine for granted and expect so much, and I am so grateful for the help I am getting.
I have managed to get some of my fall seeds in but not without increased back and leg pain. This is so frustrating for me because I was pretty much just supervising the girls from the sidelines with minimal involvement other than kneeling and occasionally leaning over! It seems that even that was too much for my fragile disc and I have been rewarded with several days of pain again. Frustrating but something I am going have to deal with for the time being. A lesson in patience perhaps? Maybe but not one I am enjoying!
The physical therapist told me that even "badly herniated" discs can heal and repair but it will take time. I need to tell myself this and remind myself that this reduced activity is temporary and for that I am very grateful.
So, we have beets, carrots and leeks in as well as a variety of herbs and the cucumbers that actually have baby cucumbers on them now. I am due to plant swiss chard, lettuce, peas and cabbages this weekend though it will be a purely delegated job this time. We are due to have temps in the 100's again the next few days, (very unwelcome to be sure), and I may wait until this passes because the seeds that are left to be planted do not do well in warm soil. The nights will still be cooler thankfully so the soil may stay cool enough for them to germinate.
I am grateful to have girls as my garden helpers. Without them I may not be doing a fall garden at all this year!
Saturday is my very favorite day of the week. Sometimes I have to work but not today and that makes me happy. I feel as though I have a whole day stretched ahead of me with endless possibilities and I am so grateful that I am comfortable today.
Poor Em is sick. I can honestly say that she has only ever been sick once before in her life as a baby when she had an ear infection. Since starting kindergarten however she has had a continuous cold, a cough, and now a fever and sore throat. Are viruses and illnesses really so different in elementary school compared to preschool? So I am planning a low key kind of a day. I have some homework to do and Kendra has said she will plant the seeds that need to go in while I supervise strictly from the sidelines. It is still quite hot but is finally predicted to get cooler next week.... low nineties? Hmm we shall see.
For now though I will go and walk around the yard with my coffee and enjoy the peacefulness and calm of these cooler "fall" mornings.
All gardening plans are on hold for a while because it seems I have messed up my back. I have had back pain for years but this past summer has been particularly bad with what I now realize has been almost continuous, at times severe, and worsening pain that I have stupidly been trying to ignore. Now I know why.
Last week was even worse, well actually very bad and by the time I got to the Dr on Monday I also had weakness in my left foot. Very scarey. It appears that I have ruptured a disc in my lower back between L4 and L5 which is an area that has been bothering me for all these years and where I have had a bulging disc for some time.
I have been amazed and so very grateful this week for the fantastic and very rapid care that I have received from my primary care P.A, neurologist, and interventional pain specialist. Today I will be getting a steroid epidural, the first of three with the hope that it will reduce the swelling compressing the L5 nerve root and fully relieve the pain, (though this has been improving anyway), and more importantly, relieve the foot weakness. If this doesn't work I will have surgery, something I have always dreaded but which now seems like a much less scarey prospect. I am confident that all will be well and as my Mum said now perhaps I wont have as much pain as I have been having for all this time.
There are several lessons here for me the most important one being that I have to listen to my body more and go the the Dr when things get bad, well actually before things get bad. I find it so hard to ask for help, always have, and yet the outpouring of care and support I have been receiving from friends, family, and healthcare providers this past week has been totally overwhelming and moving for me.
I find it hard to write about myself, and my health in this way, and yet I feel that I need to because perhaps it may encourage someone else to get medical attention when it is needed, and not to leave it too long.
I'll write more later.
Update- 9-30-11. First epidural completed yesterday and I think pain has improved a little more though it can take a few days for things to really have an effect. Second one next week. Feeling good.
This is what the corner of the yard looks like without my beautiful agaves which I pulled out this past weekend. I am quite surprised that it doesn't look as empty as I thought it would. I have temporarily dumped some river rock there but not to stay, just to get it out of the way.
Tex the garden dog had a very fun time out there with me "helping" by chasing everything that moved, and running around barking and generally making a pest of himself. I love having him out there with me though, it is his favorite place to be, and he is so entertaining!
I am going to leave the space for now but I think soon I will put in a couple of cactus' and towards the front some ground cover. I found several more weevils as I was clearing out the agaves and there has been a great deal of bird activity in that corner of the yard the past few days including a woodpecker so I am hoping that they are helping with the soil clean up though I am sure there are still evil weevils lurking out there ready to attack my other agaves next spring.
As expected the rest of my lovely Agave Americana's are now showing damage from the agave snout weevil. I pulled out two yesterday and actually found two of the dreaded weevils inside. The rest are slowly falling over but don't seem quite ready to be pulled out easily yet. I plan to get rid of the lot tomorrow and search for any weevils that may be lurking. I am resigned to losing these agave's but really don't want to lose any others though only time will tell if this is going to happen.
My cucumbers are finally growing well and looking good in the veggie garden. I think the somewhat cooler temperatures have helped. On the other hand my summer squash plants just didn't grow at all so I have pulled them and sown more seeds though it may be getting a bit late now. This weekend I plan to sow carrots, beets and leeks.
The backyard landscaping project has stalled for now. I need to order top soil, and gravel to finish it off but things are busy around here. I am back in school and my band has it's first "gig" next Saturday which we are trying to get ready for though it isn't easy to get everyone together because we all have responsibilities such as work, kids etc. It will be great though if we can actually pull it off and I have been working hard practising every day which isn't too much of an effort because I love it!
I was away last week visiting with my cousin in Vancouver. I got home last night full of emotion for so many reasons, not least of which had to do with the 9-11 anniversary yesterday.
I have so many feelings about my visit. My cousin continues to be very brave in the face of all that she is dealing with but each time I see her I sense a change in her eyes, and I see the toll this dreadful disease is taking on her. I love going there and being with her, and yet it tears at my heart to see her this way and to watch what she has to endure each day. I know that she doesn't want anyone to pity her, or to be sad around her and so I managed to keep it all inside until I saw my beautiful girls at the airport. Then I lost it for just a little while.
Now I am home and I feel so torn. I am happy to be home and yet I am so sad to be away from her too, uncertain of what I will find the next time I go. No one should have to go through what she and her family are going through right now and I can't make any kind of sense of it all.
This is all that is left of one of my formerly beautiful Agave Americana's after being infested with what I am sure is the agave snout weevil. I have read about this scourge of low desert gardens before and felt lucky that my agave's until this point had not been affected. Now I am unable to say that.
I noticed on Friday that on of the agaves was looking rather flat and assumed that Tex had trampled it in his constant quest to catch a lizard. However on closer examination I saw that the entire plant had collapsed and I was able to pull out all the leaves leaving only the heart which fell over soon after. As I cleared it all away there was a foul smell which I now know is a classic sign of this pest.
The female weevils chew their way into the heart of the agaves in the spring leaving bacteria as they go. They then lay their eggs which hatch out to produce the next generation of adults. Signs often appear in the infested agave in the summer after the life cycle has been completed and it is actually the bacterial infection that kills the plant which is why the smell is so bad. At this point it is too late to save the plant. The only treatment appears to be application of a strong pesticide in the spring to prevent infestation. There is more great information here about this pest here from the wonderful Desert Botanical Garden.
Although I am really sad to lose such a lovely specimen I absolutely don't want to use any toxic chemicals in my yard and so I will just have to let nature take its course, and be prepared for what may follow. Agave Americana is a particular favorite of mine with it's huge sculptured look but if they are all affected by this I am prepared to avoid planting them in the future. This is the way of gardening sometimes hard though it may be. I am just glad I haven't lost a tree, that would be far worse.
Here are the agave's that are left standing right next to the affected ones.
They seem to be fine right now but their close proximity to the others doesn't give me a great deal of optimism. You can also see the palms that self seeded and are growing well in front of the agaves. I am really glad I didn't move them now as I had planned because they may be just what is needed to fill up an empty space.
It is that time of year when everyone who resides here in the "Valley of the Sun" is complaining about the heat. I am no exception. Every year I think I am used to these desert summers throughout the months of June and July and make quippy little comments like, "oh it hasn't been too bad this year", and " I think I am finally getting used to the heat", only to be reminded by mid August that it is worse than ever, and that I will never get used to it! This hasn't been helped this week with several days of 110 plus temperatures that are predicted to last until the weekend. Yuk! We are all feeling fried here and I am having a hard time keeping my seedlings from doing the same. I have resorted to watering them three times a day to keep them going, and still they are looking droopy and sad in between. I will be amazed if they make it through to the fall, actually I will be amazed if I make it through to the fall especially in view of the fact that cool temperatures may not actually arrive until the beginning of November.
I worked all day today and I am tired, and Robert is working this evening, so I have to admit I was short on ideas, and time for dinner for the girls and I this evening. We didn't have much in the way of anything inspiring at home either so I took the girls to our local grocery store and said that they could choose whatever they wanted for dinner. They were very excited by this.
I am not quite sure what I was expecting them to choose, perhaps pizza, or chicken nuggets and fries, or some other favorite food typical of a seven and a five year old. Instead of this they went immediately to the produce section, and quickly chose exactly what they wanted.
Their first choice was brussel sprouts and they were most disappointed when we couldn't find any which I was actually quite relieved about because I am sure they would have been flown half way around the world to be here in Phoenix in August. What they finally chose was cucumber, fresh corn, zucchini, red pepper, cilantro, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. (These items probably also had a fair few air miles clocked up between them!).
We then came home and prepared and cooked everything which wasn't quite the super quick and easy supper I had planned but I am certainly not complaining. We ate sliced cucumber, corn, steamed broccoli and cauliflower with grated cheese on top, zucchini sauted in olive oil with red pepper, onion, salt pepper and a little cumin, and steamed carrots. It was a great dinner and I am so happy that my girls love veggies as much as I do. Not sure quite how that happened but I am very happy nonetheless!
This also inspires me to make much more of an effort to go regularly to one of the wonderful farmers markets here in the valley with the girls. There is absolutely no excuse not to buy fresh local produce especially when I have two girls who love vegetables so much but I am afraid I have not been very organized of late and have got out of the habit.
I was working in the backyard all morning. I am trying to get the river rock wash finished so we can put in some gravel, and then it will all be done.... as much as the backyard of someone with a passion for growing things can ever be done.
As I turned over a few rocks I could hardly believe my eyes when I found these,
Here is a closer view,
One doesn't get a true sense of scale until one sees this picture,
and once I had made sure they were hatched eggs, I took this one,
They are the most beautiful, and most fragile eggs I have ever seen. I am assuming that they are some kind of reptile egg seeing as I found them under a rock. I am guessing that they are gecko eggs because there were loads of geckos in the area where I was working this morning in various stages of growth. Does anyone know for sure?
Two news stories have been affecting me deeply over the past few days.
The eruption of violence in London and elswehere in the UK has left me feeling shocked and deeply saddened. I simply can't believe that this kind of senseless violence is occuring in the city where I lived, and loved to live just twelve years ago. I just spoke with my Mum and she said that the only thing keeping her going is the fact that groups of volunteers are now assisting with the clean up. That gives her hope she said.
The other tragic story that has really affected me is the one of an English school boy being mauled to death by a polar bear during an adventure expedition in Norway over the weekend. Four others were severely injured as they tried to fight the bear off. The bear was finally killed by an expedition leader. This is tragic on so many levels. I simply cannot imagine what the families of the slain boy, and those who were injured are going through right now. There has been a lot of discussion in the press that the bear was underweight, and it has also been reported that encounters of this kind could well become more common as sea ice retreats, and polar bears are forced to hunt further inland.
To be clear, polar bear attacks are rare and these youngsters were in an especially unique and vulnerable situation to encounter a polar bear in the way that they did, however this whole tragic scenario rings many warning bells for me.
We occasionally eat fast food, not often but sometimes. One of the places we go to is Baja Fresh and so I was of course happy to see that they are now serving their food on compostable plates, and using compostable paper too. These plates really are great but I wonder how many of them are actually getting composted? Ours did but I wonder how many other people are composting their plates after eating their takeout mexican food, and what happens to the majority of the plates that are thrown away in the store? Are they really going somewhere to be composted or are they just getting thrown away as usual? It makes me want to go down there and collect all the compostable plates and compost them in our backyard compost bin!
I really do appreciate that efforts are being made by large companies to "go green" but I wonder sometimes how much some of these things are truly thought through before they are implemented. In reality they may actually be helping our earth more by ensuring that the Mahi Mahi in their fish taco's is US long- line caught. Insisting that their food is sustainably sourced will make the greatest long term environmental impact for any of these fast food companies I think.
I had planned to get up early this morning and get started with things but it didn't happen I am afraid. I worked late last night and was also tired after doing some yard work at my father in laws that needed doing in the afternoon. So, the girls and I are having a lazy morning and it feels quite nice.
I have many chores to do, washing to fold, and packing and organizing to do for our last camping trip of the summer. It is our annual trip with friends and we are all excited, just two nights but nice nonetheless.
The girls and I have planted the cucumbers and summer squash and we had a HUGE storm last night with what I think must have been close to an inch of rain, (it felt like it anyway), so everything outside got a good soaking. We also planted sunflowers against the wall at the top of my new garden which will brighten up a plain wall. I also plan to grow peas up against the eastern facing wall. When my Dad was here last he put tension wires up along that wall and they will be perfect for peas to climb up. I have a lot of work to do with the soil though because it is not good right now and I already used all the compost I had ready planting the summer squash and cucumbers. I am excited to have a proper fall garden again because I didn't really do one last year though I can't remember why exactly.
I can hadly believe that the girls go back to school next week. Emily will be in all day Kindergarten this year which is a real milestone for her and for me. I am sure it will be strange for a while.
You may remember this picture of the Gambel's Quail's nest that was under a cactus in our frontyard a couple of months ago. This is the second year running that they have nested there and from what I read here I understand that it is quite unusual to actually find one of these nests.
We had been watching the Mother on the nest from a distance for a while and got back from a camping trip to find that the eggs had all hatched and were gone. That evening Robert heard a very loud cheeping sound in the back of the garage and on closer investigation found the tiniest, fluffiest baby quail that had somehow become separated from it's flock and ended up in our garage. He immediately put it in a high sided box while we decided what to do.
We looked on the internet and found the number for a Quail rescue organization here in Phoenix called Arizona Covey which is run by a lady called Jeani Garrett. She takes in rescued Gambel's Quails and rears them in her home. We called her and spoke to a man who said to take the baby Quail right over which we did. It wasn't too far from where we lived thankfully because the baby Quail seemed to us to be getting rather distressed and weak.
When we arrived we handed over the baby to the man who took it into a room absolutely full of Quail's in various stages of development. The man said he expected our chick to do fine. The girls kept saying over and over how happy they were to have saved the little Quail. I love that there are people who devote their time and money to saving creatures like this. It makes the world a much better place.
Since then we have seen a family of Quail every now and again in our neighbourhood, two adults with at least nine babies. I am sure these are the ones our baby came from and I am glad to see that so many have survived because these birds are very vulnerable to other predatory wildlife.
The other day I only achieved two things from my "to do" list....I made pesto and put it in the freezer, and went through my old seeds to see what I will need for fall. That is it! There never seems to be enough time to do everything that I want and need to do while still functioning as a Mother to my two lovely girls which of course is my main priority, and managing to keep our house slightly less than filthy.
That is why sadly I probably wont be signing up for this wonderful "Ten Steps to Being an Urban Farmer Boot Camp" that starts in September and is run by the inspiring Greg Peterson. I would so love to do this but now is not the time for me because I simply have too much else going on. Did I mention that I am drumming in a band these days? No? Well, don't get too excited, it is early days but we are having a lot of fun with it and that is the main thing. I'll let you know when we get our first gig and in the meantime it is back to the "to do" list for me this weekend!
Dig out new vegetable garden and add compost.
Check what seeds I have left ready for my fall planting season which is rapidly approaching.
Buy more seeds if needed.
Sand and paint patio chair.
clean and paint old wheelbarrow ready to use as a planter this fall.
O.K so I may not get all that done today but I can at least make a start.
This fall I am planning to plant beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, parsley, spinach, summer squash and swiss chard. I am not sure how it will go though because I have a lot of new desert soil out there and not much compost so things may not grow as well as I hope. We shall see.
The backyard relandscaping project is moving along nicely too. Today the river rock is going into the wash and it looks really nice. I always feel guilty when things like that are done by other people because I feel as though I should be doing them myself, but sometimes one needs some help I guess. Pictures to follow eventually.
Living in the suburbs is hard for me. I grew up surrounded by nature in England and find the sterility of the Phoenix suburbs to be depressing and stifling.
Many people in my neighbourhood don't seem to like things outside that grow, or move, or make a mess, none of which I particularly mind. As a result my goal for our backyard was to plant lots of trees and plants that would require little water, which would in turn encourage nature to live here in our little piece of desert. It seems to have worked! This past spring we had many more nests in our trees and shrubs, and we enjoy a wide array of birds, lizards and gecko's, and snakes..... king snakes I might add which are a welcome addition to our home.
Here are some of our nests,
I nearly didn't see this one hidden and suspended in a creosote bush until I saw the opening!
Here are the remains of a quail nest under a cactus in the front yard after the chicks had hatched out. I wanted to get a picture of the Mother sitting on her eggs but I was worried about disturbing her. This is the second year they have nested in this exact spot and I have a baby quail story for another post later.
The next two nests are I think goldfinch or warbler nests and we have at least five of these around the front and back yards.
And this is my favorite nest of all. I am not sure what was nesting in it although I have a feeling it may have been a mourning dove.
I love the way there is so much stuff woven into it including mesquite bean pods and even a piece of plastic. Very ingenious!
I will never tire of watching the life that exists outside in this suburban desert environment if we will just be willing to give it a home, a place to grow and thrive.
Anyone who knows me at all knows that I love birds but that I am terrible at indentifying them. I simply don't understand and appreciate the subtle differences between each type I am afraid. I want to do a post about the many nests we have had in our yard this past spring and summer but first I need some help in identifying a bird that has been flocking in large groups in our yard the past few months though less so since it got really hot.
These pictures are poor because they were taken through a window but they were the best I could get. This particular day Emily and I counted eighteen of these birds in this bush at one time, and we used to see them all the time especially in my fountain. I think they are probably goldfinches because the male birds have bright yellow bellies with black heads and I think my friend Jenn advised me last year that this was so with what I think are the same birds, but I am not certain.
Jenn, are you there? Can you help me please my resident bird expert?
We had a great camping trip up near Flagstaff. Fun times with good friends. Lots of laughter, cool nights, and lots of rain too! The summer rains have been pretty good so far this year and it rained a lot every day while we were up there. There was a downpour the morning we left and we all got completely drenched, and so did all of our stuff. The tent was as muddy as if we had been camping in England. Luckily after washing it out it only took an hour or so to dry on the line back here in the valley. The summer heat is good for some things after all!
Emily learned to ride her bike while we were up there. Another childhood milestone achieved!
When we arrived home this is what my back yard looked like,
Once finished this "river" is to be filled with river rock to make a desert wash but after all the rain it looked like a real river. Everything is very green outside even here with the rain and humidity and I do like it. The moisture gives me a sense of comfort I don't usually feel here in the desert, it makes me feel more secure in some unfathomable way I can't explain.
Now I am home I am overwhelmed with a long list of things that I must achieve. I have to get outside today and clear up all the mesquite beans that have fallen off my trees. (You can see piles in the picture above but there are many more now). I guess I wont be grinding them into flour again this year. At least they make great compost!
I was very happy to hear a couple of days ago that the Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona was 95% contained! It is interesting to me to see how media coverage of a fire such as this dies down as the weeks pass and communities and homes are no longer threatened, but this doesn't mean that it is over. While most have forgotten about it elsewhere the firefighters are still working, and the people who live there are still very much affected.
It was good news for us to hear that our friends who live up near Alpine have been home for a week or so and that their property was untouched by the fire. We were of course not able to go and stay there this year, (we usually go in June), however, that was a very small price for us to pay compared to what they have all gone through, and we are already looking foward to next year. I fully expect the landscape will be look different to what we are used to but I am ready for that now. Our friend tells us that they are seeing and hearing many animals around their place, and that they are optimistic that the landscape will recover relatively quickly. I am glad.
We are going camping this week up to the cool pines of northern Arizona. It will be a relief to get away from the searing heat and ever increasing humidity that is Phoenix in July.
Happy July 4th everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful and safe day.
P.S We made a little over $400 yesterday at the garage sale for our Walk to Defeat ALS. Very happy with that!! :)
Since her ALS diagnosis In February of 2009 my cousin has inspired many people to raise thousands and thousands of dollars in her honor for the ALS Society of British Columbia. The fact that so much money has been raised in her honor speaks volumes about the kind of person she is, and the way in which she is living with, and fighting this devastating disease.
At the beginning of June "Team Laronde" raised over $6,000 dollars for the BC Walk to Beat ALS. The girls and I will be walking in honor of my lovely cousin on October 22nd in the Arizona Walk to Defeat ALS. Our fundraising goal is $1,000 and we are well on our way to getting there thanks to many generous donors!
This weekend we will be holding a large garage sale to raise funds for our goal. I love garage sales, they appeal to my "reduce, reuse, recycle" mentality, and they are lots of fun too! The girls and I have been busy getting ready for it and we all feel really excited about the fact that my beautiful cousin's courage will be reaching the deserts of Arizona all the way from British Columbia, Canada this weekend. Her courage will never cease to amaze and inspire me.
I have been struggling in recent months, trying to run away from my greatest fears and yet being forced to face up to them. This is something that has been a theme of my life. It has been a difficult time for me, frightening, and painful, and yet I know that ultimately by facing my fears, and by getting through this I will be closer to becoming the strong, peaceful, calm person I know I can be.
One person who has been helping me along this journey, (though he has little idea I am sure of how much he helps me), is Jon Katz. He writes about his life on his farm in upstate New York, Bedlam Farm. I love the way he writes. He is honest, and wise, and generous in his willingness to share his own pain and his own dark places. This helps me. It makes me feel as though I am not alone.
Jon Katz and his wife Maria recently adopted a donkey that had been rescued from certain death. Jon has been chronicling Simon the donkey's story as he recovers in their care. As I read this each day it never fails to move me, especially now. The following piece is no exception. I don't usually quote so much directly from another but I found I couldn't shorten this because every word is necessary. It is so beautiful, and so sad, and yet so hopeful too. It gives me hope that I will get through all of this, and that I too can open up towards my fears instead of running away from them. I know this is what I need to do to move forward with my life.
"Each day, Simon’s soul emerges. I can see him best, oddly enough, in silhouette. So much stronger, more emotional. When he came to the farm, his eyes were lifeless, his soul spent in a losing battle for survival. He was at the edge of life. But each day, his soul gains strength. Simon is a messenger, I think. He comes here with a message for me. Open up, open up. Listen to me. Time is short.
We move together, silently, in the early morning, wordlessly, yet talking to one another all of the time. I open the barn door, he is waiting behind me. The other donkeys know not to come in. He walks in ahead of me, and stands by his grain pain, waiting patiently while I come into the barn, close the door, pour our two scoops of grain. At first, he rushed to the grain, almost in a panic, sometimes knocking me over. Now, he walks slowly to the pain, looks at me, sniffs it, and then lowers his head and eats it. Then he comes over to me, puts his head against my chest and is still, and there, something passes between us.
He is so much better, but there is a haggard look about him, weary, wise. Open up, open up, he says. It’s harder for men, I say. Open up, open up. Listen to me. Is that why you’ve come here? To tell me that days are precious, time is short, use the time and answer for it? No answer. Odd, but my body is different in some way I can’t define.
I have been opening up, I think. My life. My work. My photos. Maria. My friends. It is hard to open up, frightening. But Simon comes from the edge, and so he has strength, his message is powerful. And I listen to him, and am listening."
Jon Katz- http://www.bedlamfarm.com/blog/2011/06/26/simons-journal-listen-to-me-open-up/
As I watered my sage bush this morning I noticed movement. At first I couldn't tell what it was....
But then I saw what it was!
A very frightened, but beautiful juvenile Common King Snake. I brought the girls out to see it and kept the dogs well away. It is so pretty! I had several of these in my veggie garden last summer too though I am surprised to find one there now as disturbed as it has all been in there over the past few weeks. It made my day though. I love having nature around me!
I have done little other for the past week than think about all of those affected in the White Mountains by the Wallow Fire which is still raging out of control despite the valiant attempts of firefighters to contain it.
The White Mountains of Arizona and New Mexico are stunning in their beauty and peace and I can't bear to think of what will be left after this is all over. However, our friends who live up there are so stoical in their view of this fire despite the fact that it is within a mile of their property.
Hoping and praying there will be full containment soon, and that everyone stays safe.
This was a fountain just around the corner from where I live at 10 am yesterday morning. Since then it has become even more icy! Very unusual to see a sight such as this here in Phoenix but it has been COLD!
Life is crazy right now, so many things going on. Each day is filled to the brim with activity which is good right? Well yes, except that blogging has slipped down to the bottom of my list again, and so has my poor garden. This bad green blogger seems to have lost her focus.
This time of year, the time of year when everyone else in the north and east of this country are indoors, and freezing, is the time of year that we desert dwellers are growing veggies. We have to get them in and growing now before the time of year arrives that we here dread, the time of year we spend indoors, and boiling....S.U.M.M.E.R. (Just saying it makes me shudder).
Somehow though I have still managed to get some things growing out there for which I am grateful, especially seeing as they have pretty much been looking after themselves apart from an occasional drop of water, and the odd sprinkle of compost.
Much beloved swiss chard.
Tomatillos that I didn't even plant. (I seem to have the best luck with bonus plants!).
Perhaps I have rediscovered my green thumb again.
Or perhaps sometimes you have to stop trying so hard and just let things happen the way they are meant to.
Just a very quick post to say I am still here and I am fine. Thank you everyone for your messages and greetings, I really appreciate them a lot. I just haven't had much to say recently.
Today I am still reeling from the horrific violence that erupted in Tucson this past Saturday.
My heart is broken for all of those lost and injured, and for everyone affected by this cruel and senseless act.
I can't get the picture of the sweet little girl who died out of my mind. I keep thinking about her parents, her brother, her Mother, and I can't even begin to imagine how one would start to move on from such a tragedy.