Death–the Final Frontier?

This winter, I decided to trim back even less of my garden when all the plants began their annual march from lush abundance, to spent sticks. As the palette in my yard shifted from greens to splashes of gold and bronze, then finally to shades of pewter, brown, and silver, the winter birds began arriving.

I don’t know if they’ve been this numerous in other years. Perhaps so, and I just never noticed it. But this year, I am noticing: juncos, wrens, goldfinches, chickadees arrived in chittering flocks to tease the seed heads of cone flowers and asters, goldenrod and bee balm. Continue reading

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CARTER

The bare trees clatter their branches together in the strong east winds on this chilly morning. Gone now are the whispered conversations of leaves, the soft hiss of green grasses bending in a summer breeze.

I always keep a handkerchief in my pocket now for when my nose starts dripping from the cold. I set my plans for the winter season almost two months ago, finishing up the last of my summer projects of bees and swarms, flowers and watering, weeding and composting.

The Eden of my backyard is a bit tattered-looking now, the tall grass heads and stands of asters, coneflowers, and black-eyed Susans scrapping their dried brown seed heads together while flocks of tiny birds hop about beneath them. For the birds and the insects, I’ve left pretty much everything standing this winter. I’ll do clean up in the spring when the seeds have fallen, the insects nesting in hollow stems have departed, and the birds have had their fill… Continue reading

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Finding Peace in an Insane World–Part II

When the going gets tough, handcrafts help. Weave, sew, mold, bake…

Sheesh, it took me a long time to get back to this! So, twenty-plus backyard swarms, tomato harvests, bird rescues, bee rescues, and many months of watering later, I am here to continue my reflection on finding balance in an insane world.

As I write this, the Ford-Kavanaugh debacle is in full swing. And it is making me crazy. And I am very frustrated that I have allowed myself to let this affect my mental and physical health, which it has. I even found myself drinking a beer last night (I’ve probably drunk five bottles of beer in my entire life…) to calm my shaky nerves.

I am frustrated with myself because this upheaval is no longer in accord with how I manage to stay sane in an insane world. This is how I manage my life for most-possible sanity and peace on a daily basis:
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Queen of Hope

Wing, my SunHive, hanging high in the Beethedral, my covered bee shed.

It’s been a crazy time up in my Beethedral this spring. We’ve had very wet weather ever since March, and I hoped that the bees would want to begin swarming from my four over-wintered hives as soon as they got a sunny day.

Well, they did. It’s been swarm city here at MillHaven for the past week. Some of the swarms have been business-as-usual, as my hives began pouring out exuberant, clouds of singing bees. Two of the swarms, I gathered into new skeps I wove over the winter. But the following swarms have left me scratching my head, perplexed… Continue reading

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Finding Peace in a Mad, Mad World–Part 1

Bella sits patiently. I could use more of that patience stuff, myself!

Over the years, I’ve had many readers ask me how I keep sane in a world so full of unimaginable suffering. Having worked for several humane societies and wildlife centers over the years, I have seen no small share of animal suffering. I’m aware, as are most sane people, of the destruction of the planet, and the daily news broadcasts to us in blazing color what we are doing to each other, as well.

You, my readers, know that I see and feel the ache of the Earth. Many sensitive souls do, and finding our way to some kind of reconciliation with the world we see is no simple task. Peace and hope come slowly, over time, and achieving these blessings takes determined personal effort… Continue reading

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Befriending the Dark

With Solstice behind us, the light is circling back, yet we are still enfolded by the dark moons. I’ve always loved the cold months and the dim light. I’m a woman who likes cocooning and snuggling and pondering, and winter is a perfect season for such things.

Gardening chores and bee chores are done for the year, and the naked trees stand expectantly, waiting for spring to dress them in new finery. Rain drops chat softly with window panes, and every now and then a sharp, insistent wind screams dark and fierce up the Gorge… Continue reading

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Shameless Commerce Department

Hi Friends. While there are many, many places to put a few extra dollars these days (Irma, Harvey, Maria, Mexico…and the list goes on) I have a dream that is very big and that I would like to ask your help with.

My bee mentor, Jacqueline Freeman, and I have been invited to attend and speak at an international natural beekeeping congress in Holland next September. As you may imagine, foreign travel is not in my budget. Three nights at the coast is about as good as it gets for us in any given year. But as many of you know, bees have called me loudly and deeply these past few years, and Holland would be a dream-come-true in terms of the experts who will be there, exploring how to best care for bees in ways that are respectful and life-enhancing… Continue reading

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Raising Happiness

Lady Mantis, in all her pregnant glory.

This past weekend, I remembered that I had a kitchen. It is a fact that escapes me for most of the summer months. Entranced by my garden and all of the precious tiny creatures who visit me in surprising fashion each day, food and cooking is the last thing on my mind from April to September.

Usually in September a day will come when the slant of the afternoon shadows finally touches me on the cheek, and autumn whispers a quiet greeting. When this moment happens—and each year it is, indeed, a precise moment when the realization that summer is leaving hits me—I take a sharp inhalation and murmur, “Oh… Oh.”… Continue reading

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Duck of Earl

Master of his domain

“Oh m’god, what is THAT?!” This is the reaction of most folks who meet The Duck of Earl for the first time. One friend mistook him for a large, concrete garden sculpture, until he moved. A few have been surprised to find him standing suddenly behind them, making a noise like those raptors in Jurassic Park.

I’d like to share Earl with you, because he deserves his very own story. In the few weeks he’s been with us, he has shown himself to be a real character. Not a day goes by without hubby Carter or I telling each other, “Gads, did you see what Earl did today?” Because he is always doing something.

Duck of Earl is a young, huge muscovy drake. He came along as a “bonus” to the nine fertile duck eggs his owner gave me for our duck Lucy to brood… Continue reading

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THE CRACKS IN EVERYTHING

My log hive

Years ago, when I was reading about the meditation technique of Centering Prayer, Abbott Thomas Keating wrote that the great contemplatives either meditated or spent a great deal of time in nature. I never forgot that: That I could exchange hours on a meditation bench for hours in deep nature and somehow achieve similar benefits.

I’ve shifted over to a Buddhist meditation called Vipassana now and I especially love the writings of Tibetan Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, famous for his practice of walking meditation. I do a bumbling version of that when I move very purposefully through my back yard, quieting my mind so that I can focus on the tiny perfections of nature.

Hahn says that there is perfection in each moment, but we must be quiet enough inside to recognize it. Each day, I realize more deeply than the day before how addicted most of us are to moving very fast, racing into the future with no appreciation for the present… Continue reading

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