And Spring Slips into Summer

Foamflower, hostas, and a stunted Japanese maple frame an angel bought years and years ago and then forgotten in the garden behind the garage. Now she has center stage in the main shade garden.
Foamflower, hostas, and a stunted Japanese maple frame an angel bought years and years ago and then forgotten in the garden behind the garage. Now she has center stage in the main shade garden.

Have you ever told yourself you’d change and then actually done it? This weekend I really lived my new “to-be list” philosophy. I did do a lot, but I never made a list of things to accomplish and then checked it off, item by item. With everything I did, I felt no rush, no pressing need to do it now, no guilt in the doing or the not doing.

I spent time with my son at Van Atta’s Greenhouse and Nursery, I mowed and transplanted and weeded, I filled a dozen or more pots with annuals, I managed to keep the kitchen pretty clean. Saturday morning, Zach and I were talking about finally putting in a new fire pit sometime this summer. By afternoon, it was there! Suddenly we were roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in the backyard.

On Monday, the boy and I went downtown to visit the various war memorials and monuments and statues, and to check out the “fuzzy” Capitol building (the dome is currently covered with scaffolding as they do maintenance of some sort). We were practically the only ones downtown. We talked of war and sacrifice and men and women who served. We talked about how our state became the Arsenal of Democracy, turning auto factories into factories that made munitions and tanks and Army vehicles; how women built the machinery and the ammunition that finally subjugated the axis powers in WWII; how some wars must be fought and some do not make a lot of sense; how some people come home heroes, some come home to sneers and derision, and some never come home at all. We talked about men in our family who fought and those whose number never came up.

The wind was gusting and it started to rain on us. By the time we were home again the sun was out. We watched Charlotte’s Web for the second time in two days, and now the boy is a spider (with just four legs) who gives spider hugs and spider kisses and makes his webs out of the pile of dirty laundry his father gathered at the bottom of the stairs.

In the coming days we will celebrate the boy’s seventh birthday, his class will take a field trip to the zoo, we’ll take him to his first Brandi Carlile concert (shh–it’s a surprise), he’ll have a birthday party at the park with his friends, and we’ll celebrate with some family the next day.

May is always a big month here.

But I’m not sweating it. I’m loving every minute of it.

Welcoming Back the Shade Garden

Spring has truly sprung over the past week in mid-Michigan, and the shade garden I expanded in the back yard last year is beginning to bloom…

Bleeding Heart
Bleeding Heart

I’ve been busy outside destroying and covering up my neighbor’s sidelot (with his permission) because I’m tired of looking at the mess of English ivy, poison ivy, weeds, dead leaves, weed trees, and trash out my dining room window.

Red Epimedium
Red Epimedium

Now it has been mowed, poisoned, shrouded in black plastic, and covered over with mulch.

Daffodil
Daffodil

Over the next year or so it should suffocate.

Poesy Daffodil
Poesy Daffodil

Then the mulch can be raked back, the plastic can be removed, and the remaining mulch and dead matter underneath can be worked into the soil.

Yellow Epimedium
Yellow Epimedium

At that point, it should be ready to sustain something beautiful and/or useful.

Emerging Ferns
Emerging Ferns

In the meantime, I’m on the lookout for some cheap or free pots and will try to stage a nice array of containers full of flowers on top of the mulch.

Pulmonaria
Pulmonaria

Two days after that big project I am still sore from moving edgers, swinging an ax, and shoveling and dumping and spreading mulch.

Fading Hellebores
Fading Hellebores

But the view is much improved.

Rocky Mountains Reflections: The Landscape

My, my, how the week just gets away. April slipped out while I was busy with other things and now it’s a full week since I had the good fortune to be here.

Rocky Mountain Foothills, near Denver

And here.

Moraine, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

And here.

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Compared to many of you, I’m sure, I have lived a very sheltered life close to home. It’s not for want of desire to travel. As a child I was wildly jealous of my best friend and her frequent travels to places beyond our small town. She summered in these mountains at a camp called Cheley. You can see it here if you look hard.

Cheley

Don’t see it?

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She spent her summers riding horses (something else I longed to do, as all girls do at some point) through this landscape.

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Now, I love my state. I could never live in Colorado because of the water factor. It’s hard enough living in mid-Michigan when you grew up with sailboats and freighters and seagulls and drawbridges. But I understand why Colorado sucks people in.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by this?

Rocky Mountains

And this.

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountains National Park, CO

And this.

Rocky Mountains

And this.

Leaving the Rockies

It is fantastically beautiful, inspiring us to stop and reflect on our own cosmic insignificance — were we not made by the same creative and loving hand as each of those mountains. Yet we are known as intimately and cherished as closely. The same God who caused the earth to push up Long’s Peak…

Long's Peak at Bear Lake, Rocky Mountains National Park

…causes the earth to push up the mountain crocus.

Mountain Crocus

He bids us leave our homes, get out of our cars, get off our duffs, and start to climb.

ClimbingUp

He calls us to seek higher ground, not for safety’s sake, but so that we can see the world closer to His vantage point.

Rocky Mountain National Park

He calls us to love and care for this incredible planet, and for all of the living things He put here for our enjoyment and education and inspiration.

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And to pass that love and sense of responsibility down to our wide-eyed children.

Tina and Micah

He calls us to notice the shade of the dirt…

Abandoned Mining Operation?

…the sound of the river…

St. Vrain River

…and the chaotic flight of the swallows.

BirdWatching

My first trip to the Rocky Mountains was entirely too short. But I will be back, with husband and son in tow. Because beauty like this is meant to be shared.

Friends1

Alison’s Poem and the East Lansing Poetry Attack

This past week I was pleased to open an email from the nice folks in charge of the East Lansing Poetry Attack that read in part, “Your poem Alison’s Poem is destined for a tree in East Lansing.” Readers of my old blog may have seen this before, but I couldn’t find it anywhere here at A Beautiful Fiction, so I’ll share it now. I wrote “Alison’s Poem”  on the morning of my sister Alison’s March 24th birthday a few years back. Older than me by less than two years, Alison is the firstborn of the family, but not the first conceived. I was thinking about how my mother must have felt to see her after a miscarriage during her first pregnancy, and so I wrote this…

Alison’s Poem

Clear dawn over the snow-dusted lawn
Deep gray gives way to a subtle ray
Then bright and vibrant hues chase the night
Sweet pink, then yellow—orange—green, I think
So fades cold evening to the next day
So things of winter melt into spring

The poem will be displayed this Sunday, April 26th, at 1-4 PM in the trees in front of the East Lansing Public Library as part of the 3rd Annual East Lansing Poetry Attack. Some of the poems will later be moved to city hall and displayed during the East Lansing Art Fair, May 16-18. More details on their Facebook page.

All Bluster and Bustle and Sweet Anticipation

March has been busy blowing herself right out of our lives the past couple days. I imagine April close behind, pushing, nudging, maybe sighing as she tries to take her place in the spotlight, March digging in her heels and leaving scuff marks on the stage. No one in the Midwest is sad to see the end of March, and we delight to greet April, that understated, delicate being who always remembers to bring flowers with her. March was still a lion yesterday, gusting and raining and snowing all at once. Perhaps April is our lamb.

I find myself wondering if it is too late to start seeds inside. I’m thrilled to pieces that the leaves are already off the garden and that there is so little to do in the yard now in the early spring. I used to get this manic feeling this time of year, writing up lists of all the things I needed to get done outside before it got too late in the spring. But now, everything’s done. I’m excited to see how my expanded shade garden fills in this year. I anxiously await the first opening buds on my baby redbud tree, hoping it has weathered the very cold winter. I don’t know how many more summers we will have in this house, so I intend to consciously enjoy this one. That will likely translate to lots of pictures of the gardens, so I hope you’ll indulge me when I share them here.

At this moment my yard is swiftly switching between bright and dim, the long shadows cast by tall maple trees and dead ash trees blinking on and off as air currents far above send the clouds skittering across the sky. Across the ground, last year’s crispy brown leaves take a similar trip, bouncing and swirling about like scattering rabbits. There’s hardly a thing out there worth a photo. But there is rain and some warmth in the forecast — just what those dormant roots in the garden have been waiting for.