Monday, July 26, 2010

Shoe Trees

Summer is meant for getting out, gardening, having fun. Only the weather was been so hot the last few weeks that I couldn’t bear the thought of being outside no less working in the garden. So I spent some time indoors instead, cleaning out closets, trying (not too successfully because it was pretty hot in there, too) to organize the garage, gathering things to toss, donate, re-gift, and recycle. But that didn’t stop the yearning to get my hands into the dirt. What to do?

I was about to get rid of was a pair of old, formerly comfortable but now were pinch-my-toes shoes when I noticed that some of my houseplants needed separating. Hmmm. Why not combine my activities?

I am used to making unusual crafts out of ordinary things for the children’s activity books I write. So…my shoe trees were born. I put stones in the bottom of the shoes and poked some holes in the sides for drainage, laid in peat moss and potting soil, and tucked in offshoots of the plants on my windowsill. A tad quirky, I admit, but so satisfying. Recycle and garden, all in the convenience of my air-conditioned home. Ah yes, summer is fun.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tigers in My Backyard

The Tiger Swallowtails are back on my butterfly bush and they are exquisite! The butterfly is named that for obvious reasons: it is striped like a tiger and the base of its wings look like the tail of a swallow. It is stunning – large, dramatic, and brilliant yellow. I look for it/them each summer. Usually several are feeding on the bush. Last year I saw a brown butterfly on the bush and thought I had spotted a new kind of butterfly but I found out it was a female Tiger Swallowtail. Females aren’t always brown so it had confused me. I saw her again this season. I guess a family has taken up residence in my backyard. I read that one of the trees a swallowtail likes for egg-laying is the tulip tree and, luckily, I have one! I hope it means that there will be many more summers with these lovely insects flitting about. What a joy it is to have them flutter around me, almost touching, in such a familiar way. But then, we are all part of the same universal family.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I Believe

Sunday was a lovely summer day. I was driving slowly along on my way home listening to The Lettermen, the early 60s group, being interviewed by Liane Hansen on Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR. Tony Butala, the only original member of the trio, talked about how the group started and why their sound is unique. He had once told the group that when the harmonies blended right, a fourth voice can be heard. The song they used to illustrate this was “I Believe (For Every Drop of Rain That Falls),” one of the songs they sing in concert. I was intently listening for that fourth voice and thought I could hear it just when they got to the part about hearing a newborn baby cry or touching a leaf or seeing the sky. I looked up toward my own blue sky, then, and gasped. A hawk flew out from a grove of trees and floated in the air with wings fully outstretched, outlined by a puff of billowy clouds. At that moment I heard them sing the words, “Then I know why I believe.” And seeing the grace and serenity of that flight, in that setting, it was hard not to believe in the harmony of nature, in our inter-connectedness, in the bigger picture of life. I couldn’t capture the bird as I was driving but later I could reconnect with the inner image I retained as I again looked up into the sky. What a day!

If you want to check out the interview go to and click on Listen Now to hear some great harmonies.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Where is Everyone?

I had to laugh when I looked outside and saw the squirrel sitting on the arm of the stacked patio chairs. It was July 4th and he seemed confused. Did I hear him say, “Where are the cushions? Where is everyone? What happened to the barbeque and the crumbs?” Well, the cushions were in the garage, we were in the air-conditioned house, and the party consisted of a brief outdoor stint before we scooted inside during this heat wave. We did venture out to see fireworks in the relatively cool (80 degrees at 9:00 PM) evening at a local high school. I love fireworks and these were wonderful. The show started out with a brilliant burst that often announces the ending but then went on to show some beautiful and different displays of color and sound. Although I had to hold my hands over my ears at a few points, it didn’t diminish my pleasure in the celebration.

What a great reminder of the energetic spark of America, no matter the current complications. Our nation began as a grand experiment and we continue to push the boundaries of tradition and limitations.

We all cheered when the program was over, wishing for more. Well, there will be more next year – more celebrating, more appreciation, more exuberance. But if it is as hot as this Fourth was, I will have to say, “Sorry, Squirrel, the cushions, and the tasty crumbs, will have to remain inside.”