Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Ugly Day

I confess, I've always loved lousy weather —

cold gray days when most people are inside doing normal things 

like reading, or cooking, or cleaning out closets.

It's been raining all day, the temperature dropping. I'm stir crazy. 

Time to put on my chicken boots, grab my iPad and head outside with a plan to find beautiful things on an "ugly day."


As it turns out, my neighbors Vonda and Cecil also don't know when to come in out of the rain either! Instead, they're repairing a fence post in Cecil's raised bed out front.

Down to the gardens

I’ve become quite familiar with the gardens since moving into my Elderberry home five months ago. I’m inspired by “common gardener goddesses" Vonda and Karolyn. 

I’m a newbie, mostly pulling weeds. I’m finding a second vocation 

however as mechanical fix-it person — mending fences, 

improving gates, whatever! I find surprising gratification in making 

things beautiful and more functional!

Karolyn’s dog Lucy looks forlorn as I walk past her 
along the pedway on my way to the gardens. 
“Are you going to the garden without me? I’m bored as well!” 

This patch of collards is old, but still lovely with drops of moisture 
collecting light on large, blue green leaves. Not too long ago, 
our gardens were so dry, I’m still very happy to see rain drops everywhere.

I’m a graphic designer by profession, and so a sucker for color! 
Orange was my favorite color as a kid, so I’m still attracted to this riotous combination of orange on the marigolds. Color is more vivid with rain, as the colors brighten and the gray skies flatten contrast, a perfect reason to walk along the flower beds on any rainy day!

I wish you could have quietly walked up with me to this adorned fence! It burst apart with small, forked-tail birds that took flight from their invisible hiding spots as I approached. I’ve always loved silhouettes and these dried vines are lovely, their random pattern contrasting against the rigid pattern of the fence.

Vonda and Karolyn planted “three sisters” this year in the summer garden. Corn stalks grow first to support the beans, and then the broad leaves of squash grow to shade and protect the soil around all three. Native Americans used this technique. I love this spent mass of plant confusion left here, partly for the history behind it.

Down the lane and back

Continue along Elderberry Lane past the community and gardens and you approach Bel Cielo, or beautiful sky, a quiet open meadow edged by forest, and the entrance to the Potluck Luck trails at the woods’ edge.

Today, Bel Cielo is gray and close and intimate with rain clouds. The rain has flattened the view, so the pattern of trees stands in stark contrast along the sky’s edge. In summertime I often walk here in the late evening to watch the sunset, or meet friends for a socially distanced Saturday night wine-down.

Today I’m surprised to find our neighbors chickens foraging through the meadow. I must have spoiled their fun as they headed off back to the woods as I approached. There’s something delightful about their grouping and regrouping, as they move along. I took several images as they made their exit.

This is the view as I turn back towards Elderberry. A gently curving dirt road always pulls on my imagination, and reminds me, “walk slowly, enjoy these woods.” I recall the Mary Oliver poem, When I Am Among the Trees, maybe you know it? My favorite line, “and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.” Indeed.

Such an abundance all around, I can become blind to the small discoveries. I almost walked by this “window” along Elderberry Lane, until I recognized the late blossoms of honeysuckle. When I walk before dawn brings enough light to see what surrounds me, I instead recognize the blooming honeysuckle by their sweet, heavy scent. Summer has arrived! 

Crooks Corner in Chapel Hill serves honeysuckle sorbet from blossoms painstakingly gathered by hand. This view also reminds me of that beloved May tradition.

Closer to home

There is so much to see walking along the trails and paths, 
you can be forgiven for not looking up! But looking up across the curve of Elderberry Lane from the gardens presents this spectacular view of the old white oak that shades our central circle. 

Don’t you wish we could hear these lovely old trees tell their histories? What might we hear? Maybe take just a moment of silence...

Closer to home and hive

Under the oak is one of three entrances to our "hive", the community building we built, literally, when Elderberry was just forming. This is a path I take multiple times a day, to the kitchen, our laundry room, maybe the multi-purpose room. It’s much quieter, with Covid restrictions, as are so many parts of our lives right now. 

I’m aware of the change in seasons as one last spot of brilliant yellow remains near this entrance. What you might not see is the tidy black shape of Panthe, Linda’s solid black cat just beyond. We trade turns watching each other. One day while working in the small grove of trees by the parking lot, I turned around to find her under one of the cars watching me, almost invisible except for her yellow eyes.  Much the same color as the mums.

Something as mundane as a car windshield might seem a little out of place here. However, rain has transformed this common object into something worth a second, or third, or multiple look! Each raindrop is a small curved reflection of light and color, repeated again and again. On nicer days I watch the ripples on the pond at Potluck Farm playing the same game as the radiating circles reflect the sky, woods and water around it. In the sun!

Garden eggs are not easy to grow for a beginning gardener. 
As I was packing my posessions, having recently moved out of both my office and home in town, I discovered many small caches of rocks, collected from my travels and hikes. I’ve been slowly returning some of these rocks to the woods as I hike, but some are simply too lovely and full of memory to part with. So, they are now "planted" in my little garden in front of my home.

My weeders’ dilemma. Yes, it’s a weed, but it’s incredibly beautiful to me, especially with water jewels. To pull, or not to pull?

The deeper story

I hope you’ve enjoyed my exploration to find beauty in an ugly day. Before I end this, a little deeper background to this story. 

Earlier in the day, I could feel myself sinking, contemplating and worried about what the future held for all of us. Last summer, I found myself in a similar place, in a more serious way, floundering. Once I pulled through, as we all do at some point, I decided to make a list of what I needed to remember when I found myself starting down this path — ten suggestions to make a positive change in my outlook. I affectionately call this my "personal manifesto". 

Suggestion number eight was good advice from a dear friend, presented to her at a recent workshop. “When I start to feel low, just making an initial effort creates energy for positive change.” 

Thank you, be well, and keep looking for beauty every day.

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