This Is My 61st Spring

There are huge oaks around my work. Check out the squirrel celebrating the first sunny day this month.

And spring never ceases to fill me with wonder and awe. The sun is finally out. We’ve been waiting for the light.

We will bid farewell to the yaupon holly berries soon. But the sun is glorious shining through it.

It’s time for renewal. For new beginnings. For starting over.

Hooray! The cinnamon grape scent is back. Hello, Texas mountain laurel.

Know anyone trying to start anew? Cut them some slack.

The rosemary has bloomed all winter.

Enjoy these spring plants.

Flowers Help.

I’ve seen bluebonnets on the side of MoPac this week. I heard they are way early. But flowers are supposed to make me happier, not worry about global warming.

Old-fashioned single camellia in Clute

So. Hooray for the camellia blossoms I saw last weekend that reminded me of home and my mom. She hybridized them. She had so many issues, messed up so much, but she was my mom and loved me.

Not quite open yet.

The Hoya plant reminds me of the year I contract worked at 3M. Nobody really talked to me in my department, but I got to have lunch with my friends Bill and Scott sometimes. And that plant bloomed and bloomed. It’s still going.

There’s stuff going on in my family, stuff going on with friends, stuff and more stuff. Ah, but even grocery store flowers remind me that we retreat and rebloom in cycles. Good times will come and the flowers will bloom again.

Hug a friend. I’ll try to write something more profound or fascinating next time.

Winter Coastal Blooms

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Here are the bluish ones. These may be “regular” spiderworts, because those are not such hairy buds.

Some of our readers are still recovering from the polar vortex of last week. Here, it’s suddenly up to no-jacket weather (though another polar front is on the way). It’s not too early for some of our hardier plants to start blooming away, and I found some really pretty ones in Galveston, as I was doing my best to identify beach plants without flowers.

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Some of the shades of purple in this spiderwort species.

My absolute favorite were these hairyflower spiderworts (Tradescantia hirsutiflora). First, they came in so many lovely colors, ranging from the purplest purple to almost pink. It was a striking look.

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These are the pink ones. Just look at those hairy little buds!

Second, I discovered on iNaturalist that the hirsutiflora (hairy flower) version of spiderwort existed! I’d originally identified it as the more common T. ohiensis, but I’d obviously not looked close enough. Daniel, who corrected my observation, pointed out the hairy buds on the flowers, which you can plainly see here. Regular ole spiderwort has smooth buds. Now I’ll look at every one I see!

Continue reading “Winter Coastal Blooms”

More Teeny Tiny Flowers

Today I am on a trip (so I wrote ahead of time), but I’m still thinking about the power of teeny tiny flowers to lift our spirits. You don’t have to be big to sparkle, shine, and make a difference in the world. Here are some of the little guys who brighten up the area near our old church building.

This henbit deadnettle looks like an orchid from this angle. It’s a teeny tiny thing of beauty.

When you get down on the level of these ground-hugging darlings, you often see even more tiny life. I mean, look at that little fly, or wasp, or bee (not sure, Master Naturalist Fail). That’s probably just a centimeter long.

Speedwell and a tiny friend. You can barely see these flowers if you are standing up.

I have noticed we have a lot of yellow and white tiny flowers. Perhaps those colors make them easier to see for pollinators that find them visually. In any case, this time of year, anything cheerfully yellow is fine with me.

Tihs is screamingly yellow creeping woodsorrel. I’m guessing those leaves are tasty and sour. There sure are lots of sorrels around here!

And I do need to share just one flower that’s not so tiny, because I was so happy to see it, an anenome! They were among the first spring flowers at my old Austin house. Some are white, some are deep purple, and some are a mixture. I always had to convince people that to me, they are not weeds, so I kept them. They die back quickly, anyway.

Anenomes pushing up from among the dead leaves.

Y’all have a good Saturday. No doubt I’ll be back to my “deep thoughts” series, but I’ll never give up sharing what’s blooming around me!

Imbolc: Spring Is Coming

In many parts of the US, Easter-time is when spring is celebrated. Here in Texas, the spring new growth starts around the beginning of February, at a time traditionally called Imbolc or Candlemas (or in US folk culture, Groundhog Day).

This is one of my favorite images of Brighid. It’s on sale right now, too. I had to borrow this photo, since I’m not at home to take my own picture.

It’s also the day sacred to St. Bridget or the goddess Brighid, depending on your tradition. She’s always been my favorite, since not only is she the Mother Goddess of Ireland, but she protects the hearth, the home, spinning and weaving, and fire! That’s why there is an “eternal flame” in Kildare, Ireland in her honor.

I was pretty thrilled to find a goddess who cares for all the things I care so deeply about, so I’ve always loved her. Back when I got to go to Ireland often, I visited her sacred well and cathedral many times. If you’re ever in Kildare town, check it out.

Here, though, I celebrate Imbolc by giving thanks to all the little plants and flowers that have kept me going through the winter (the very damp winter this year!). The little bluets are a real favorite, as is the chickweed I shared earlier in the week.

I’m glad I met Monique Reed, my botanist friend, because when she came to inventory plants on the ranch last year, she showed me how many wonderful tiny plants there are here at the Hermits’ Rest; you just have to look for them.

Looking at the tiny blossoms, the tiny berries, and all the plants that keep on going through the winter reminds me that we, too, have to keep on going through the dark periods, and just keep looking toward the light. That’s what the Imbolc season tells us, too. Spring is coming. Keep looking at the light and stay warm (yes, even those of you in the Polar Vortex right now!).

Hey!

If you want your own statue of Brigit or Brigid or however you want to spel it, I recommend you visit my friend Liana’s business, Sacred Source, and see some great options/

Senses Working Overtime

Yesterday was a beautiful day, and whenever that happens, I’m sure to take a walk or two during the workday. I use that time to make plans for meetings and figure out problems, like I said in my previous walking post. It helps me think.

Can you spot the bees in the sweet olive bush?

Moments after I stepped out of the building, my spirits lifted, and I happily thought to myself, “Sweet Olives!” Once again I gave thanks that my sense of smell is very good and that some smart landscape designer put sweet olive hedges all around the building where I work.

They trim up nciely to make a hedge.

These plants (Osmanthus fragrans) are among the earliest to bloom, and make January and February very pleasant throughout the southern USA. The sweet olive has beautiful green leaves, making it a nice hedge plant or small tree, depending on how you prune it.

Just one tiny flower can be enjoyed for hours.

But the best thing about the plant is its flowers. They are tiny and white, and grow in not-very-showy clusters. But who cares what they look like! They smell fantastic. They are sweet, but not overly so, like many white flowers. I took one tiny blossom back to my desk and enjoyed it all afternoon.

People aren’t the only ones to enjoy the sweet olives, too. I saw many honeybees pollinating away, and even some houseflies enjoying the nectar.

I smelled this one. It smelled great. I like those landscape roses, even if they are getting a bit ubiquitous.

My nose continued to be happy as I walked around the building, because the roses are continuing to bloom, as they have all winter (they are that nonstop kind). The good news is that they do have a nice scent, though not as strong as a damask rose.

They call it sweet alyssum because it smells very sweet. And is a great edging annual.

Then, as I continued my walk, I smelled something very, very sweet. I looked down, and there, smiling at me, were some beautiful sweet alyssum. They were planted with dianthus, so, if you lean over before walking in the neighborhing buildings, you get a sweet, spicy mix. (Aside: I always find the purple ones more strongly scented, which is also true of solid purple pansies and the purple variety of lantana, which smell fantastic if you get close to them.)

The different textures in these bushes helped me forget about the cigarette I had been smelling.

Luckily, most of my other senses also got to enjoy themselves, since all kinds of plants are budding out, and there are always songbirds trying to drown out the traffic noise from US 183. The last part of my walk was bad for the nose, though, since a guy got ahead of me and lit a cigarette. That gives me the wrong kind of sensual overeload. I always wonder if smokers realize how many other people their habit can affect? (I know some do!)

Bird News

Speaking of birds, I have good news. The Swainson’s hawk pair that nested at the office appear to be back. And I was very surprised to see a caracara (Mexican Eagle) fly over outside my work window this morning. You don’t often see them in such an urban setting.

The Long Way to Fearlessness: Meditation

[By the way, if your personal tradition doesn’t like the word “meditation,” you can substitute “prayer” or something else that works.]

Some folks like to look at something when they meditate, like a flame or a flower. I like things with regular patterns in them, if I’m going to look at something.

Believe it or not, the habit I have cultivated for the longest time is meditation. I probably came to it for self defense; I had a very, very busy brain as a young person. I worried a lot; I daydreamed a lot; I replayed scenarios in my mind; I engaged in endless analysis of my perceived flaws and the perceived flaws of others. I needed a break.

Lucky for me, I liked to go to the library as a little kid, and my mother did not care what I brought home, because when I was reading I was quiet. Sometime around 1970, when I was a preteen, I saw a scary looking book called Transcendental Meditation, by the equally scary looking Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I thought to myself, “Hey, that’s what all the hippies are talking about” (the “hippies” were actually grad students who rented a house down the street from us).

I must say that back when I was a teen, I did a lot of sitting outside hiding in mossy areas to meditate.

So, I was just a kid, 11 or 12, so I probably didn’t get all the nuances of the technique right, and I never did take an official class in it, but I started meditating almost every day. I got to be pretty good at getting all blank, and I sure felt calmer when I consistently did it.

As time went on, I studied other forms of meditation, finding myself drawn toward something like Zen Buddhist meditation for a long time, learning about entering trance from my pagan friends (who always said I was SO good at that, since they didn’t realize my self-taught practice was pretty much what they were teaching), and of course, taking childbirth classes and practicing all that breathing (hee hee hee, etc.). And as you know, I do yoga as one of my main forms of mind-body exercise.

What did all that get me?

I’m pretty sure that all my meditation allowed me to go many years without any medications for my anxiety issue. It has also provided me with the best tool I have for dealing with physically stressful times, too. That childbirth breathing also works very well at the dentist, when stuck in crowds, or when I’m about to give a speech. A bit of breathing helps a LOT.

All the little leaves are my quiet mind, and the little flowers are those intruding thoughts popping up.

I’ve also found that answers to questions that have been on my mind have popped up while I’m doing my best to think about nothing. Usually one just gently shooes away random thoughts, but when an answer shows up, I see where it goes.

Honestly, meditation was my first step toward fearlessness. Having this wonderful tool in my repertoire to help me through difficult times has been a real blessing. I fear physical pain so much less, and I know that in mentally stressful times, I have a tool to help me recover. Such a simple thing as sitting for a while in silence every day has morphed into a powerful and freeing part of my life.

Does this aply to you?

Do you meditate? Do you prefer to pray and include words directed toward a helpful intermediary? Do you concentrate on a mantra or other phrase? Do you read from a book of meditations of some sort, then think about that? There are many different ways to center yourself and many different things people call “meditation,” but I think everyone needs a way to find their center quickly. Think about what you do. Do you want to learn something new?

Here is a free sample object with a regular pattern to focus on as you quiet your mind. I kid. I don’t have any meditation illustrations, as you can probably tell.

If so, well, there are lots of resources beyond Transcendental Meditation these days, and there may be one that is just right for increasing your own fearlessness and coping with what life brings you

Namaste.