Shy Beauty

The first summer I lived in my new place my head was full of garden plans. (Along with all the usual things.)

By spring my ideas had become more modest and in line with reality. My garden was shady. The old, elegant oak tree does a great job of shading the windows and easing the load on the air conditioner. It also dictates shade tolerate blooms below those same windows.

Thrifty, I asked around at work. I had a name. But I’d never planted these before. Years and miles away a nice patch of them lived under our lilac bush. I got lucky – sort of.

We have some a co-worker declared. It’s the wrong time of year to transplant. We’re building new steps and they have to go. How many do you want?

The next Monday she brought in a bag, I took it home and dug a hole. I discarded rocks, bits of broken brick, and other bits that discourage plants. I tossed in some purchased topsoil, the roots, and added water. And prayers.

The first few years not much happened. I got some foilage and that was about it. I think it was the third year when they decided it was a good place to put down roots, poke up leaves, and test a few blossoms.

They are spreading underground now. Each spring holds a surprise of how many and where. The delicate, shy white bells never fail to bring a smile to my face.

Lily of the Valley



Getting Away

The feeling gnaws within me.

Get out! Go somewhere!

How long has it been? Months — too many of them.

Plans have been made. Modified. Finalized. We leave Thursday morning. We’ll be back in our own homes Sunday night.

Calculate the changes of clothes. Take a dress for the formal dinner. Remember the toiletries! Suitcase. Computer. Purse with money.

It’s only five hours away on the highway. Two full days among like-minded people. Attending workshops. Having new experiences. Celebrating contest winners.

Report on the scratching of my winter itch and writer’s conference in this space soon. A person just never knows what they will see or experience on a weekend get-away.


White Promise

A mild winter plus an early spring has half of the county sniffling and sneezing. I’m one of the lucky ones. An extra tissue a day meets my needs.

Early spring bulbs give bright spots of color low to the ground. Ornamental trees lift pink and white blossoms high.

My walk takes me to another pair of trees. Working trees. They stand secure behind a white fence like queen and princess of their yard. I check for blossoms. Are they pretty? Yes.   Is it more than beauty? Yes.

White blossoms promise pears in late summer.

Blossoms with Promise



How Many Notes?

My bell stand partner has been to the music store and is all excited.

They have duets. Play one with me. Hand bells and organ – I’ve already talked to our director (she doubles as organist, triples as choir director).

The ability to say “NO” to flattering invitations slips away. We arrange a practice time, arrive on schedule, and lay out the bells. I don’t want to count them. How can such shiny, elegant brass and leather instruments intimidate?

Missed notes, wrong notes, late notes lead to laughter. Begin again. One, two, three, four. Move bells around for easier changes. Again.

Next practice we each miss fewer notes. I mark extra spoons with note notations and practice at home. In my head, as I count, it’s beginning to sound a little like a hymn.

Weeks, then a month goes past. Are we ready? A practice or two with the organ. Yes, it will work. We play from our hiding place in the balcony for a summer service.

More practice. More confidence. More tricks learned to position bells for quick changes. Passages memorized from repetition. (And because page turns come in the middle of the most difficult phrase.)

Courage. Confidence. Circumstance. No hiding for a special service as we give a Thanksgiving duet.  Taunt nerves relax at the end. The same relief remembered from after the first concert with beginning band all those years and miles away.




Houseplant Shuffle

Spring can be a time to dance. A time to savor the warmth of the sun and the beauty of bright green grass.

The other day I did a different sort of dance. If plants can be compared to children, I sent mine outside to play.

The tallest one is in the front flower bed, standing on a cement base in a shielded corner. The widest one summers on the patio. Out went the plant stand — holding one herb (rumor says Rosemary discourages mosquitos, taste buds confirm tasty with potatoes) and two ornamental foliage.

Tiny lettuce sips moisture and nutrients in the planter on a  small table nearby.  Will it keep the rabbits out? Or will they be as inventive and acrobatic as a squirrel sighting a bird feeder?

Ah! Time to clean the house, enjoy the extra room the green beauties leave me for the warm months. Now when I sit on the patio with my book the sights and smells around me have an extra layer of variety.


Two Notes

Would you like to play bells?

I’m flattered and timid at the invitation. Is this a reward for singing in a small church group recently disbanded?

Hand bell groups, usually based in a church, are fun to both watch and listen to. The bells shine, flash, and give off an unexpected array of sounds. Can I do this?

With my courage pushing me forward I report to the first practice of the season. I’ll only have two notes to keep track of. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself this past week.

Acquaintances point me to the white practice gloves. The director assigns me to my place – the lowest bells of the three octave array. I’ve four to ring – two basic notes and their accidentals. Lowest in the left hand, higher in the right.

Keep the beat. In several places these low notes serve as the bass drum in a band. Dong. Dong. Dong. Then — a run, syncopation, key change — how did I miss the repeat sign?

Stubborn is a family trait. I return the next week. And the next for practice. Then nerves blossom as we walk in front of the congregation for the “special music”.


Watering the Garden

Is it raining? My brain rouses from sleep enough to ask the question. The body doesn’t care, rolls over, and tells the mind to hold off the curiosity until morning.

Hour after hour the sky remains gray and weeping.  It tapers to a mist and I venture out with an umbrella for my daily walk. An hour later and it’s pounding — heavy drops bouncing from parked cars and the asphalt they sit on.

Downspouts direct water to the narrow, gravel alley. Predictable gravity takes it away. It comes heavier, faster. The alley spills over into my patio. It creeps across slanted cement, finds an exit ten feet away and flows back out on the way to the muncipal storm sewer inlet.

As the clouds thin before sunset I walk out to inspect the garden.  Saturated dirt within the boundarys of the raised bed makes me glad I didn’t plant yesterday. I hope the moisture will go deep, ready to nourish the plantings next week, when God may or may not water the garden on a human schedule.


Parade Notes

Trombones go in the front row.

Our director moves among us checking positions, moving a confused band member, re-considering our placement. Then last minute instructions.

Left foot first. Keep distance from person in front. Glance right to keep row straight. Listen to the drum section for the beat. (How could you miss them from their center row?)

The Majorette blows her whistle, raises and lowers the big baton. Off we go.

Left. Right. Left. Boom. Boom. Boom. Listen to the bass drum among the clatter of the snares. A corner, remember the spacing, oh….that was ragged. Stop. Listen. Again. Down the football field, turn, again and again.

Then the street. Parking lot gravel under our white Keds turns to asphalt. Stay in the right lane. Drums on the rim past the hospital. Practice, practice, practice.

Football halftime entertainment. Memorial Day ceremonies. A parade invitation.

We march in heat, cold, and a fine misty rain. After the parade in warm, August rain we pack our instruments and climb into the school bus for the fifteen mile trip home. Wool uniforms scent the air as if we were a flock of damp sheep.