Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cyber Journeys

Gladys and I took the class outside during field biology. She shared an interest with me in everything that grows as we smelled the wild root beer aroma of three-leaved sassafras, tasted dandelion flowers and touched green moss. We identified poison ivy and stinging nettle, then squished the juice out of their counteragent, jewelweed.

One day as Gladys and I were talking I mentioned that I have hardly been anywhere except Southeastern Ohio, Missouri and back again. She grinned and said. “But girl, you sure did find a lot to love right where you are.” I guess with that she is right. The diversity of the wild things that thrive in our little corner of the world amazes me. I told her I have no desire to travel because I detest highways. So, Gladys will be surprised when I tell her that I have become a world traveler.

It all began when my youngest looked our address up on the computer via Google map and did something that I didn’t realize you could do. She pulled the figure of a man to the street and suddenly we were looking at our home in 3-D just as if we were driving by in a car. It was eerie as we went past our yard and looked right at our front door. The photographer came by last summer, as that is when I had sunflowers growing by the barn. You can turn and scan my view of Farmer Scholl’s field, look down at the road or up at the sun in arch of the sky. You can even see our honey sign!

You can take a ride such as this anywhere in the world that Google has filmed. I have not been to Missouri for twenty some years so I moved the little symbol of a man to the map and rambled the road that drives past the place where we used to live. The appearance of your destination can be greatly enhanced, or not, depending on the day that the photographer passed through.

They caught my Missouri on an overcast day, the trees leafless and bare. In this scene I journeyed past the old home place and found it not only smaller then I remembered, like places from our past so often are, but also empty. I tried to find the lane I lived down as a young bride but I got lost. I clicked out and took my journey to sunnier skies.

Mountains touch the sky in Norway where in my cyber journeys I stay off the highways and travel rural roads. I love visiting places where the architecture is different. In Mexico you can see thatched roofs, in Italy tiled, and there are roofs covered with plants in Switzerland. The garbage-can did not evolve the same everywhere in the world, some places have triangular garbage-cans and others little square boxes.

Everyplace I go my interest in plants remains and I zoom in to see if I can identify the specimens alongside the roads. I wonder if Hawaii has a dry season, as it was not lush as I imagined. There is a tree that grows there that stands like a sentinel on the hills. I wish that I could get a good zoom in on its leaves because I would like to know if it is in the cedar family.

Google should bring along a botanist to label the plants in its outings! It must be Golden Marguerite blooming on the steep mountainsides of a lovely road, which I cannot even believe is a road, it is so narrow, in Italy. I am certain that the trail up a mountain (I am partial to summit views) on the island of Las Palmasde Gran Canaria is lined with the same intense blue lobelia that I buy at Smeltzer’s greenhouse every spring. Amazing to know that there is a place where it grows free and in abundance.

Yet, as much as I cherish nature I start feeling a little bored on my cyber journeys if I have gone a few miles without seeing any signs of my own kind. When I spy a homestead up ahead my attention is awakened. One day I cybered through a village on the Indian sea in a place with flora and fauna very different from what I know and there on a staircase overlooking the water sat a woman with graying hair, a little boy on her lap.

I didn’t have to wonder for one moment what family they were from. On the other side of the world a little boy brings springtime to a woman in her autumn, just like my grandson does to me. Their skin and eyes a darker color, I am sure they speak a different language but are we so different? It seems obvious that our grandmother hearts know the same sorrows and the same joys.

So, I have to tell Gladys that I have traveled a good deal of the world now and I see that there are many places on this beautiful earth, that God made, that I could love. There are places where strange and exotic plants grow but I what I find the most interesting is that everywhere on this whole wide world there are people much like us.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


In late autumn the earth lays down her load, to rest. She has kept tune with The Divine Plan, the rhythms of the sun and the seasons. She sprouted, bloomed then seeded. Now she comes to a much-deserved break and succumbs to a long, dreamless sleep.

Every creature that is out of doors plays a part. On sunny days the honeybees take their last storing flights to the remaining strands of goldenrod and stray blooming asters. The horse is growing her winter coat and all of the birds inclined to do so, have journeyed south.

There is not one yellow petal left on the sunflowers but I leave them standing, colorless, for the Gold Finch who still finds seed there. When the flowers dropped their yellow petals one by one, the Goldfinch shed the yellow coat that he wore which matched them, as if he didn’t want them be dressed shabbily, all alone.

Today he wears a faded garb, which perfectly blends with the spent flower stalks as he sits silently among them. He used to be a dashing fellow but now when he gets up and flies about, you are tempted to think that he is just a leaf broke lose from the tree, like one from the neighboring redbud, partly pale and partly dark and rumpled.

The trees, shrubs and herbs also have taken the energy that they have in the past contributed to charming the outer world and have drawn it deep inside of themselves where they anchor it in their roots, underground.

The day gives in to night so quickly now that it seems like we miss having any evening at all. That same darkness holds out late into the morning. I find it contrary to wake up to a clock that insists that it is time to get up when the sun hasn’t yet given it’s permission for any such risings.

On these grey mornings I grumble in my head that the whole human race would have been better off if we had never invented clocks, cars or schedules. Often there are thin coatings of ice on the rainwater that I collect from the barrel and evidence of nightly intrusions in intricate icy fingerprints laced on the upstairs window glass. The red berries that the roses left behind bleed stark against the pure white crystals of the first flurries of snow.

We dig up our root plants, the horehound, chicory and celeriac. Their poignant aromas seem rich in the absence of all the other smells, which are leaving. The cold, dark days seem drearier than I am ready for so I feel in tune with William Cullen Bryant, as I read his sonnet,

Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
Yet, one smile more, and we will try to bear,
the piercing winter frost and winds and darkened air.”

I think the real reason that we don’t want autumn to leave is because we have a primal fear deep down inside of us that the sun will not come back. What if it turns away and gets lost on the other side of the world never to smile on us again? There is such a human part of us that wants to grab, to hold, to keep, and to hoard. If we could place summer where we could take her out at will we would.

Nature teaches us to let go and trust, like she does. When the winters of our souls come along we often rebel, we don’t think this should happen to us. Yet we have the evidence right in front of us that He who creates this universe keeps it operating with perfect precision. Spring flows into summer, summer into fall and fall into winter, every year, without interruption.

As the wild things face winters head on out in the weather we face winters that we cannot hide from in our inner lives. At times things appear bleak. Yet, if we look honestly at nature we can see that winter never holds on forever and winter is good for things, like getting rid of what is spent and making the soil fertile for what is new.

Perhaps we should take our cue from nature and accept our winter as a time to go within, as a time to renew, a time to rest. Seeing how the Master Gardener takes such care in every little detail of nature don’t we think that perhaps he might have the perfect plan laid out for us too? Then our joy, like natures, would be to surrender to this divinely inspired plan.

“Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.” Isaiah 58:11