No Regrets

When I woke up yesterday, I sat down and planned my day -- and wrote a to-do list for myself that was long and industrious.

Then . . . I took the dogs out for a walk (item #3) and discovered what a beautiful day it was out there.

I had a change of heart.  (Or I guess you might call it a change of priorities.)


I decided to bag the list entirely . . . and putter around in the garden instead!


I got started on my fall chores . . . weeding and cutting back and and making notes for next year.  I enjoyed working with the chickadees swarming around my newly-filled feeder and the bees just buzzing away in the fall blooms.

It was just what I needed.  (It's always just what I needed, actually.)


My lists can wait.  

Beautiful fall days in the garden, though?  They need to be savored!

Bloomin' Friday

When I put my garden beds together, I try to make sure I have something blooming pretty much all the time - spring to fall.  

I especially love the fall blooms -- toad lily, goldenrod, sedum, autumn clematis -- because they bring such a wonderful POP to the garden as it prepares for the dormant season.

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Enjoy your weekend.  I hope you find something lovely . . . blooming . . . in your corner of the world.


The Isle of Skye

About 6 weeks ago, I gave you the last installment of my travel tales -- leaving you hanging at the Highland Park distillery, chewing on some whisky.

But.  There is much more to tell about my trip to Scotland and Ireland.  Let's catch up, shall we?


After our day in Kirkwall, we sailed through the night . . . and woke up to this magical view. . . 


The Isle of Skye!

Now this . . . was just breathtaking!  I'm pretty sure we just stood out on our veranda and giggled!  Moody, broody Scotland . . . at its finest!

Our ship was actually anchored in the midst of a bay, surrounded by islands.  We took tender boats to shore -- to the city of Portree.


(That's our cruise ship, there in the far background.)  (Tender boat not pictured.)


The little town is charming . . . just like something out of a movie set or a storybook!

My sister and I had signed up for a group hike around the island.  We met up with our tour guide -- and set off!  The trail was pretty rustic -- muddy, boggy, and steep.  But just incredibly beautiful!   (Plus cows!  And sheep!)  (And no bathrooms.  At all.  I had to pee in the woods on the Isle of Skye. . . )

Here . . . I'll let my photos tell the story!


After our hike, we enjoyed some time hanging around in Portree -- a quite picturesque little town with excellent fish and chips!


(I kind of felt like I was in the middle of an episode of Doc Martin or something.)  (Although I know that show was not filmed/set in Scotland.  Just sayin.)

And this?  Here's my sister, in her handknit sweater from Kirkwall!  (In front of the pink building.  Because of course!  My sister love, Love, LOVED pink as a little girl.  And some things never change.)


Join me next week when I tell you all about our rainy afternoon in . . . Belfast, Northern Ireland!




Fall Interlude I

For obvious reasons, I didn't get up north to our cottage much this summer.  (Like . . . only twice.  And that was early in the season.)  Luckily, fall is a great time to head north -- when the days are still pretty summer-y, but fall is in the air.




In the fall here in Michigan, we often have foggy mornings . . . 



but the fog usually burns of as soon as the sun rises, revealing those sparkling blue skies from my earlier photos.

It's been great to have this week up here.  I've had plenty of time for reading and thinking and writing and knitting.  The dogs love it, too!  We've had time for swims in the lake and walks in the woods.  And campfires.  Everyone loves campfires.




Just so you don't think it's all fun and games up here in the fall . . . we're also up here to bring in the boat and the docks for the season (because you don't want to be stuck doing that once the water starts getting really cold!) (ask us how we know. . . ).  And Tom has started a major project:  replacing most of the 102 steps leading down to the lake.  (Yeah.  He isn't creating a "yard-Jenga" game here.)


We'll be heading home tomorrow -- but we'll be back soon.  I'm going to treat myself to several more fall interludes this year.  (And Tom, y'know. . . those stairs!)


Look Back and Think Ahead

This week for Ten on Tuesday - on the last official Tuesday of summer - Carole has us looking back at the five best things about our summer and ahead at five things we're looking forward to about fall.

Okay.  So it hasn't been the best of summers here in my world.  But . . . nestled among the angst and the sadness, there were some pretty brilliant moments.

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1 -- Carole and Dale came to visit Tom and I here in Michigan.

2 -- I went on a fabulous trip to Scotland and Ireland with my sister.  (Watch this space later this week, when my travel blogs begin again.  I still have much to share about our trip.)

3 -- Erin visited for what was supposed to be a week, but turned into nearly two.  (And at a very critical time.  She was an angel.)

4 -- Tom and I visited Brian and Lauren in Boulder.  (Thanks, Di.)

5 -- I was able to spend a lot of time with my mom, in what turned out to be the last months of her life.


As for fall?  I'm looking forward to the change of seasons this year.  Here's what I'm looking forward to:

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6 -- Spending a bit of time up north.  (I missed pretty much the whole summer at our cottage on the lake, but I can still spend a few wonderful fall weekends up there.)

7 -- Fall gardening.  Transplanting and cleaning up; maybe even preparing a new border for next spring. I think I might even buy some more bulbs.  (The question . . . Will I actually plant them???)

8 -- Planning my mom's memorial service and family Thanksgiving extravaganza.  (We're rolling it all into one big week.)

9 -- Convincing Tom to buy a bike.  (But don't hold your breath.)

10 -- Settling.  (I'm not sure exactly what this means . . . but I feel a powerful need to do it!)


How about YOU?  What was your best summer moment . . . and what are you looking forward to this fall?


Join the fun!  See what everyone else has to say here.



Flowers are Magical

When I post pictures of my garden blooms on Instagram, I often use the hashtag #flowersaremagical.  Because, to me, they are.  

Explosions of color.

Science unfurling.

Endless variety.

Magical connections.

Apparently, my own grandmother - my mom's mother, who died four years before I was born - was a gardener.  While most of her efforts focused on growing fruits and vegetables, she also found time to tend a lovely flower garden filled with snapdragons, daisies, hydrangea, zinnias, and dahlias.  Not surprisingly, all of these flowers became my mom's favorites in her own garden.

Every Mother's Day, I would give my mom a new dahlia for her garden.  Every year, my mom would plant the dahlia and enjoy the lovely blooms, come September.  Later in the fall, she faithfully dug up all her dahlia tubers and overwintered them.  Some years, she was successful; some years . . . not so much.  But her garden always had dahlias.  

This spring, my mom wasn't quite herself.  She didn't do any gardening.  She didn't plant her dahlias -- and I gave her a hanging basket for Mother's Day, instead of the usual dahlia.

So imagine how surprised I was on Saturday, when I started clearing up my mom's garden for fall.


Because there were . . . Dahlias!  Blooming in my mom's garden!

She must have missed digging all the tubers last fall.  And last year's mild winter must have saved this one.

Just for me.

Because . . . I'm going to dig this dahlia tuber and try to overwinter it myself.  

Because . . . My garden will always have dahlias.

Because . . . Flowers ARE magical!


Telltale Sign

As an avid gardener, I notice gardens all the time -- whether they're parking lot plantings at the vet's office, professional plantings at the hospital, or lovely gardens in front yards all around town.

I especially appreciate the gardens I see day in and day out -- the lovely flower beds and and borders I pass every day in my neighborhood.  On the way to the grocery store.  On my walks with the dogs.  At the corner where I have to wait to turn left.

Lovely gardens.  Carefully tended.  With love and attention and time.

Except when they're not.


Weeds out of control.

Dead, spent blooms.

Grass creeping in everywhere.

Total garden chaos.

To me, these are telltale signs . . . that something is amiss in that gardener's world; in that usually lovely, well-tended garden space.

And I'm usually right.  Someone's husband is ill.  Someone has moved to assisted living.  Someone has lost their job.  Or taken a job.  Or had a baby.  Or adopted a puppy.  Someone is having chemo.  Or suffereing from depression.   Something . . . has disrupted the life of the gardener.

In a rather serious way.  And it shows . . . in their garden.


My own garden this year (pictured above) shows all the telltale signs. . . of a garden season disrupted.  

Of other priorities.  

Of things amiss.

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You can find me out there every day now.  Weeding.  Deadheading.  Cutting back.

Restoring.  Reclaiming.

My garden.

(And a whole lot more.)

More Poetry . . . and Letting Go

Dear friends . . . 

My mom died last Saturday evening.

Peacefully.  With my dad and Tom and I at her side, and the rest of our family with her in spirit.

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It's been a rough summer.  And I thank you all for your kind words of love and support.

I'm working through it.

Poetry helps.


In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

–Mary Oliver (American Primitive, 1983)


Sundays are for Poetry . . .


The Swan

Across the wide waters
something comes
floating -- a slim
and delicate

ship, filled
with white flowers --
and it moves
on its miraculous muscles

as though time didn't exist,
as though bringing such gifts
to the dry shore
was a happiness

almost beyond bearing.
And now it turns its dark eyes,
it rearranges
the clouds of its wings,

it trails
an elaborate webbed foot,
the color of charcoal.
Soon it will be here.

Oh, what shall I do
when that poppy-colored beak
rests in my hand?
Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:

I miss my husband's company --
he is so often
in paradise.
Of course!  the path to heaven

doesn't lie down in flat miles.
It's in the imagination
with which you perceive
this world,

and the gestures
with which you honor it.
Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those
white wings
touch the shore?

--- Mary Oliver
      from House of Light


My blog break will continue for a few more days this week.  I'll be back soon, though.