Conversations In The Garden: On Creating a Sanctuary

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“Who will free me from hurry, flurry, the feeling of a crowd pushing behind me, of being hustled and crushed? How can I regain even for a minute the feeling of ample leisure I had during my early, my creative years? Then I seldom felt fussed, or hurried. There was time for work, for play, for love, the confidence that if a task was not done at the appointed time, I easily could fit it into another hour. I used to take leisure for granted, as I did time itself.”

~Bernard Berenson

 

 

Many days I felt like this.  Hurried, hustled and bounced about.  Feeling time was running out, and I had accomplished little.  And even after I ticked everything off my To Do list, more was added instantaneously.  Never time for leisure, relaxation or rest.

 

 

 

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I always dreamed of a safe haven away from the flurry of life….where I could go to get away even for 5 minutes to regain my sanity.  And when I thought about this place I saw the ocean or a meadow….flowers or a beach.  Each of these images are healing for me, and immediately ease my pain and renew my soul.

 

 

 

IMG_5627So when I designed the bones of my garden, I imagined flowers and water there in a special spot…and with it the sound of water.  It was clear that a pond would be the perfect spot to have water and flowers.  And that pond had to have a waterfall, so I could have the healing sound of water nearby, especially since I don’t live close to the ocean.

 

 

 

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It was easy to decide where to place the pond….as close to the house as possible so we could have easy access, and hear the water flowing over the rocks.  Where I could sit on a large rock at its edge and look out over the garden of my soul…my sanctuary!

 

 

 

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And once created, this place took on a magic all its own.  I discovered that my sanctuary was also a safe haven for others who wanted to share it with me.  They didn’t talk, they just hung out with me in the moment….they were my quiet solitude companions that added their song to sing me to sweet solitude and peace.

 

 

 

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I am of course referring to the frogs, toads, birds and insects who also call the pond their home, and their sanctuary.  They bathe here, and give birth here.  And some have made this place their home too.  We commune and talk, but mostly we just sit in peaceful meditation marveling at how incredibly beautiful this place can be.

 

 

 

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I look forward to every spring when we put the pump back in, and the pond stirs to life.  To see the tadpoles and frogs awake.  And the lily pads start forming on the surface, knowing the flowers will be along soon.  To watch the reflections in the water.  This is my heaven on earth….my special haven for healing.

 

 

Have you ever created a sanctuary for yourself?

 

 

 

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Special Note:  The pictures here are of my pond in its first year of bloom.  While it is a bit overgrown these days, it is still my sanctuary, and beloved habitat for so many who share the garden with me.

 

I will be taking a week off, and will have another post next Thursday, the 26th!  It is a special day for me….

 

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I leave you with a few additional words on creating a sanctuary.  I welcome you to download this photo and share it.

sanctuary

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations in the Garden: On Perspective

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“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
~Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

 

 

For me, I would say the world IS a garden.  A big, beautiful garden full of plants and wildlife, so much more fascinating than I could ever dream them to be.  And the intricate webs of life, that are woven in this garden, are so important for us….for you and for me, and for the plants and wildlife we live amongst.

 

 

With Earth Day being celebrated tomorrow…or is it anymore….I am reminded of the call, in 1970, to change how we treat the world, the environment we live in.  It meant something important and special to me, that first Earth Day.  Finally a way to recognize what we must do to change how we are treating our planet.

 

 

IMG_0412And the rallying cry, ‘Earth Day Everyday’ was a perfect mantra for me.  A young 13-year-old wanting to make a difference.  I knew so little then…and now some 46 years later after all I have learned, and all I try to do, I wonder do I make a difference at all.  Will my one garden, grown organically, using less water…will it matter in the grand scheme?  Will it matter to the wildlife in my one plot?

 

 

And realistically in the grand scheme of things maybe not.  But for me it does matter.  I was taught respect.  Something I find sorely lacking these days.  And the respect that we may give others who have earned it, also translates to a respect for the earth that supports us.  Indeed it is essential that we respect the earth.  That we do our best to do no harm.

 

 

I know I am not perfect, nor can I be.  But my efforts do help the microcosm of life, here in my one plot.  The rabbits nest here, the animals find food here to support themselves and their young.  Unlike those around me, who spray every bug until it dies, I cultivate the insects.  I welcome them home.  And my garden is abuzz with their sounds throughout the season.  These insects are the reason my flowers grow, my fruits and vegetables produce, and birds and babes flock here to nest and raise their young.

 

 

IMG_0381From my perspective, it is really rather simple…..do no harm.  Stop spraying your weeds and the insects.  The chemicals not only are killing the wildlife around us, but they are killing us.  More and more research is showing that our exposure to chemicals is causing diseases in us and our pets.    And the chemicals found in our food, is where we get the bulk of these chemicals that are deadly to us.

 

 

I am not going to regale you with research article after research article.  They are there if you chose to read them, or even believe them.  But if we use common sense, why would we want to poison our bodies.  Once I started eating only organic foods, I found many of the health issues I had subsided, and the inflammation in my body was drastically reduced.  Not scientific research…no.  But good common sense….do no harm.

 

 

If chemicals kill weeds and insects, then it follows they poison us too on some level.  Have you ever used some of these chemicals.  I did a long time ago, and even poisoned myself….I was deathly ill after prolonged use….several days of spraying to rid myself of lawn and weeds.  I was lucky to escape with my life in tact.  But then I was only focused on getting rid of the weeds…can’t have weeds you know!  Now I live with the weeds.  The weeds that support wildlife.  I’d rather have weeds, and wildlife and my life, than a chemically sprayed world devoid of life.

 

 

IMG_0413Can you tell I am impassioned about this topic?  Am I preaching to the choir?  Yes, and I am up on my soapbox too.  And maybe my voice will reach very few, but that is not going to stop me from doing what I know in my heart is the right thing….do no harm.  This is my perspective, and only you can reach your own conclusions based on how you see the world.

 

 

I ask that you take a moment this Earth Day, and consider my words.  Look at the world from a different vantage point.  Shift your view, to see the world through the eyes of others that we share this planet with.  Look at the future for yourself and your children, your family.  Bury your face in the grass and see the teeming life there that we depend on, and that depends on us to first do no harm.

 

 

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How are you celebrating Earth Day?  What is your perspective?

 

 

 

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Special Note:  The pictures here are of Iris reticulata that grow in early spring.  I took pictures of the same clump of iris from different perspectives.

 

 

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I leave you with a few additional words on perspective.  I welcome you to download this photo and share it.

perspective

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden: On Finding My Power

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Message from the Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers:

“As you move through these changing times… be easy on yourself and be easy on one another. You are at the beginning of something new. You are learning a new way of being. You will find that you are working less in the yang modes that you are used to.

You will stop working so hard at getting from point A to point B the way you have in the past, but instead, will spend more time experiencing yourself in the whole, and your place in it.

Instead of traveling to a goal out there, you will voyage deeper into yourself. Your mother’s grandmother knew how to do this. Your ancestors from long ago knew how to do this. They knew the power of the feminine principle… and because you carry their DNA in your body, this wisdom and this way of being is within you.

Call on it. Call it up. Invite your ancestors in. As the yang based habits and the decaying institutions on our planet begin to crumble, look up. A breeze is stirring. Feel the sun on your wings.”

 

 

 

With spring rapidly approaching, I feel the pull of my garden.  It sings sweet, soft songs to me.  A welcome back to the land.  To the rebirth, and growing of all things green.  It is a cherished time….a reunion of the soul with the soil.  A time to plant seeds and watch them come to life.

 

 

And it is a time when I feel I have recouped my power.  I am stronger, clear-headed and DSCN9053more balanced once spring comes.  I have been working on this balance for a long time.  Ever since I entered the world of administration, from teaching, I found myself in an unfamiliar world.  A place foreign where I just did not feel at home.

 

 

I was always in battle…..feeling like I had to have my guard up.  Thrust into a more outgoing, aggressive atmosphere.  A place that was most uncomfortable, especially for this sensitive introvert.  But I felt I was learning, and I could be me once I learned to navigate in this new place.

 

 

Fifteen years later, I retired from this battle-weary life.  This world of tension, and constant action.  I had become ill from the unyielding stress.  And I knew I had to leave, or I would literally die.  I thought of my exit as retreating, giving up, and that I was just not strong enough to make it in this world of work I had chosen.

 

 

DSCN9030And this defeat has preyed on my mind for 2 years, until recently I was given a life line in a letter I received from a most generous and precious soul, Sandra Pawula.  I have talked about Sandra’s wonderful Joyful Wisdom Guide’s before.  They are thoughtful, poignant and so very helpful.  Although I had no idea how life changing they would be, until she sent me the one on balancing the masculine and feminine.

 

 

Once I read more, and understood this balance between the Yin and Yang, it was clear I had made the right choice in my exit.  The battle had been fought in my old life, and I had given myself over to a life of continual action….more, more, more….running from pillar to post….the masculine side in which my career was steeped.  I had given up fighting for my feminine side….where I had been relying more on my intuition, receptivity…..which had served me well when I allowed this side to flourish.

 

 

Now instead, for these past 2 years, I have yielded to this inner struggle of the Yin and DSCN9046Yang; the masculine and feminine.  Now instead, I have given myself over to this introverted woman.  Cocooned her, nourished her and allowed her to live….to speak to me.  I let my fears come alive, and faced them learning the messages they held.  The lessons I was destined to learn.  To embrace the less perfect me.  The softer side where things are messy.  Where I have faced my vulnerabilities and give them voice.

 

 

I have rested much in this time of refueling.  Living in my garden.  Watching, complacent in the knowledge that I must let it all be for now.  Let nature take hold and give it what it needs….what I need to rekindle.  Healthy food, water, rest, simple exercise.  And now I know the winds are changing for me.  As I learn to use the Yin of me.

 

 

And as the Indigenous Grandmothers pointed out, this new journey is not toward a goal, but a journey within.  I feel their words deeply knowing ‘in my gut’ that this is how it MUST be for me, and for humanity now.  To embrace my feminine side, as she softly calls to me, when the moon rises and I lay awake hearing the inner voices of wisdom speak.  Feeling what it means to be in the flow.

 

 

DSCN9049Where is this all going?  What lies in store?  I do not know.  I just know I will follow the voice of this woman; her wisdom water.…a slow meandering creek where she makes her way, and carves her path.  I will follow-up here, as lessons unfold, and issues crop up.  As life takes hold, and I finally soar in the sun with my own strong wings supporting me.

 

 

 

Have you felt this pull to embrace your feminine side….to connect with your intuition?  What new lessons are you learning?

 

 

 

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Special Note:  The pictures here are of pink flowers from my indoor garden (Amaryllis or Hippeastrum throughout the body of the post), and outdoor garden (Lily-of-the-Valley at the top of the post, and Hellebores at the bottom).  Pink represents the feminine side, friendship, affection, harmony, inner peace and tenderness.  It is the color of love of oneself and of others.  A perfect color for this post.

 

 

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I leave you with a few additional words On Finding My Power.  I welcome you to download this photo and share it.

feminine

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden: On Boredom

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“I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.”  ~Louis C.K.

 

 

 

This quote, that I found recently, struck me as an in-your-face truism.  And I will be the first to say, I can get bored easily.  Or at least I thought I was bored.  Especially in winter when I am cooped up inside…ughh!  Now what do I do….sit and look at the white landscape.  Yes, the snow is pretty, but really I need something different after a while.

 

 

What I didn’t know then was, ‘I need something different’ was code for, ‘Routine is what is boring me’.  The same old, same old…..white landscape, too cold (or so I thought) to go out…..nothing new happening, ‘cabin fever’ feeling was creeping in.
And when I thoDSCN2001ught about it, that feeling doesn’t just happen in winter.  It actually happens in summer when it gets too hot to go out and do much.  And I find myself cocooned inside with the air-conditioning.  And then it struck me, how sad is that!

 

 

Did you ever notice that you will hear children saying, ‘I’m bored’ more easily than adults.  I know I did especially in winter, and toward the end of summer vacation.  Sounds familiar…..hmmmm!

 

 

I will even become bored with my garden….more bored by the look of it.  The same tried and true bulbs bloom every spring in the same spots.  The same bushes and trees leaf out.  The same weeds take over as I lose steam at the end of May trying to combat them….they’re everywhere….my God, they don’t stop!  At about that point, I give up and go inside just as the garden is heating up.  I know it is a sacrilege to be bored in a garden….but it happens.  What is causing this?  And really how can I be bored with so much life to be lived?

 

 

innovate3aSo am I really bored?  Or is that I need to shake it up a bit?  Try something new.  So I began exploring this a bit more toward the end of fall.  I think that is why the word, Innovate, really resounded for me as a mantra for the new year.

 

 

Like any activity or habit, if we don’t stretch ourselves, we can become tired of the sameness that comes from repetition.  Now some folks love the safety and security of repetition.  My husband does…..(Shhhsecretly sometimes so do I, but don’t tell him that).  He likes his comfortable routines, and when I need to shake up mine a bit, he unfortunately or fortunately has to come along with me many times…..with much kicking and moaning, I might add.  But once we start, we both find we like the change.

 

 

So there it is…change…..it is change I am seeking.  We fight it, we run from it, but inevitably it is what we seek…what we crave.  I know I do.  My brain craves new scenery, new scents, new experiences.  Some changes in the garden help….new bulbs, new designs….trying a few new vegetables; tomatillos this year.

 

 

DSCN1899But my soul seeks change as well.  It wants to explore, to contemplate life in new places, and meet new folks.  Engage in stimulating conversation or just watch the sunrise or set from a different locale.  To learn about myself more, and watch this woman grow.

 

 

So this is my year to Innovate….embrace change in my habits.  We are walking almost daily even when the temps are in the teens and it is snowing….what a wonderful experience!  We are planning some travel to see family…they are scattered around the country and we just don’t get to see them often enough…fingers crossed my health stays good for travel!  And we are exploring our surrounds…..going to the beach on the coldest day of winter was breathtaking!

 

 

Of course these are only a beginning….as I move through my day, I wonder how I can stretch myself.  Instead of reading 60 books this year, can I expand my normal repertoire or genre (mysteries and garden books)…I have added some spiritual books, memoirs and non-fiction to the list and love the intellectual stimulation.

 

 

DSCN1926So I am really bored?  Or maybe I just need a little shift.  A few more layers to endure the sharp bite of the wind, as I go out even on the coldest, snowiest day to find a warm, cozy world.  It seems just a gentle push up and over the hump or edge of that rut, I have worn into my path, is just enough to set me off onto a new adventure…..

 

 

 

Do you ever feel stuck in a rut or bored?  What have you found that helps lift you out and over that hump?

 

 

 

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Special Note:  The pictures here are recent winter scenes, photographed through my windows.

 

 

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I leave you with a few additional words On Boredom.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.

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All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden-On Patience

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“You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.” ~ Abraham Maslow

 

 

 

I have been working with the amazing Sandra Pawula, from Always Well Within, in her new venture, The Joyful Wisdom Letter and Circle.  Sandra sends a letter once a month with a unique theme to work on.  As she says……

 

I created the Joyful Wisdom Letter to help you overcome these pesky states of mind and live your full potential.  The Joyful Wisdom Letter offers a unique transformational process, which delves deep but moves at a relaxed paced.

The Joyful Wisdom Letter is not about “sexy” or “epic” or “big.”  It’s about being true to your essence, whatever that means for you – from leading a quiet life to dancing in the bright lights.

 

 

DSCN7502Let me just say that the letters so far have been life changing…..especially the one about Patience.  To say I’m impatient is an understatement.  I have learned to cultivate a bit more patience since I began gardening.  Waiting for veg seeds to grow as I work on weeding, or trimming plants.  Trying to learn a bit more about a plant that is limping along, so I can apply the lessons in order to help it grow.

 

 

These small garden lessons have helped me some, but little did I know when faced with a challenging situation, I would find the tools I needed deep inside to move ahead in growth, and not step back into safety thanks to Sandra’s teachings.

 

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It was the phone call we never want to get.  Middle of the day, and why was my husband calling me.  He had gone off with his lifelong buddy for a trip up North.  When I answered there was silence, and then his voice, odd and monotone.

 

 

They had been in a car accident, he was OK as was his friend.  My husband recited to me that he had broken his thumb and was waiting for an ambulance.  It was awful…they hit head on.  All I could answer was OK, try to listen and not react….‘stay calm’ was what my heart was telling me while my brain tried to race in panic mode.

 

 

 

DSCN7767And in the midst of this phone call, I found myself unusually calm.  He was alive, just a broken thumb.  But my mind still tried to race.  With a broken thumb, I’ll have to be ready to take over some chores and responsibilities, and give support….oh boy I am not good with that.

 

 

An hour went by and his friend called back….I couldn’t make out much of what he was saying as he seemed to be in shock.  They were headed to one of our local hospitals.  But they are waiting for the ambulance as the first one took the family from the other car.  They were OK too.  Really unbelievable all were OK, as the collision was 50 miles an hour head on.  They would let me know which hospital they were headed to soon.

 

 

So I waited for the next phone call.  I decided that as I was waiting, I better get showered, clean up the dishes, and be ready to go…oh and grab a bite to eat in case I couldn’t later.  As the time ticked on, I found myself doing other chores and writing to pass the time.  I still was unusually calm…..but why weren’t they calling me back, it had been 2 hours!

 

 

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Finally, I called them.  I had not wanted to be a nagging, needy wife, which is why I waited, but something told me the wait was over and I needed to know what was going on.  I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach just writing about this.

 

 

I reached them by phone just as they were working on my husband’s thumb….hearing him shout in pain did not sit well.  But I finally found out where they were.  I jumped in the car.  I made a concerted effort to drive the speed limit, and not rush….’stay calm’ was still my mantra.  No reason to rush as that would just add to my anxiety.  I made it in great time as traffic was light by that time of day.

 

 

I did have a bit of anxiety trying to find parking, but finally with the security guard’s help I found it.  I walked in as they were finishing up.  His thumb not broken, just dislocated, and he had some stitches.  But what had not been apparent in the phone call, was that his strong wall of tough composure was broken.  This accident had shaken him to his core, and it was here he would need my support.

 

 

DSCN8611I did not panic, I did not cry….instead I found the lessons from Sandra deep inside me.  My practice of these had ingrained them in me somehow, and I had found a new strength, and new ways to respond to this scary situation.

 

 

 

My old habit of responding to stress with more stress was quashed for now….I remained calm, and calmness rewarded me.  I decided to perceive this situation as one of gratitude….thankful he was alive, and not harmed except for the thumb.  This joyful perspective helped me to help him too.

 

 

My life changed that day….and not for the worse (thankfully again), but there was a shift.  I suddenly knew what really mattered.  I had a new feeling deep in my soul…a knowing that I was somehow different as was my husband.  We could lean on each other, ‘in sickness and in health’.  I knew that he was there for me, as he had demonstrated on numerous occasions.  But I was never sure how I would respond when called….now I knew he could count on me too!

 

 

DSCN8740This new found sense of calm and patience has continued in my life….not perfect….but one where I can realize when I am slipping back, and can catch myself.  I am not sure how these new lessons will show themselves as life goes on, but I know that with dedicated awareness and practice I change any habit or tenderly tend any part of me that is in need….and this knowledge gives me solace.

 

 

 

How do you practice patience?  What new lessons are you learning?

 

 

 

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Special Note:  The pictures here are of asters from my fall garden this year.  They symbolize patience.

 

 

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I leave you with a few additional words On Patience.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.

aster patience

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2016.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations in the Garden: Slowing The Pace

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“I have reached the stage now where luxury is not in fine possessions but in carefree possessions, and the greatest luxury of all would be the completely expendable.”

~Nan Fairbrother

 

 

At this time of year, the garden is making its final preparations for its annual slumber.  Each successive frost reminds the plants to stop growing and producing flowers.  Instead the plants begin to adjust their energies to their roots…a time to put all their focus below the soil and build up their resources now at the most basic level.  Where there is warmth and nourishment for growth.

 

 

Unlike in spring and summer, where the emphasis is on the outer growth of the plant….the leaves and flowers.  We work furiously in our gardens to prepare for the emergence of the plants.  We weed, cut back and remove impediments so we can celebrate each new bloom as it appears.  And then with the heat of summer, we sit on the front porch to cool ourselves and witness the beauty created before us…nature in all her glory.

 

 

I have spent many days, languishing in the shade of my porch and gazebo to observe the critters buzzing and chirping about.  To hear the gentle wind blow through the grasses, and watch it sway the multitude of flowers.  What sheer bliss.

 

 

DSCN4276But it seems with the coming of late fall and winter, we grieve for our gardens.  Nature lays waste to our precious masterpiece, wildlife retreats and we are left with cold, fierce winds and icy cold rain and snow.  We finish our garden chores and move indoors to find warmth, and a bit of relaxation.

 

 

But instead of kicking back, taking some deep breathes and going within to replenish ourselves, we seem to do just the opposite.  Our lives seem more hurried than when the plants were lush and the garden chores many.

 

 

I find myself impatient, sluggish, restless and frustrated.  Some of these feelings because I cannot be outside in my beloved garden and nature, but more because of the holiday season.  There is so much to do!

 

 

Cleaning, baking cooking, decorating, shopping, sending cards…ugh!  Not a holiday, where the word should conjure up rest, recreation, and freedom from work.  No, quite the opposite in fact.  The feeling of having to rush, rush, rush to get it all done before the holiday is here…not really getting a chance to enjoy the holiday season.  Instead it’s the annual race to finish it all and make it the best, brightest and prettiest holiday ever, takes charge!!

 

 

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Well I for one cannot do that anymore.  I have given it up.  Given up the cards…I send a few ecards to family.  No more baking except for one little dessert for a special meal.  I can’t have the sugar anymore anyway.  I have a faux tree already strung with lights...no judgments please.  I use a few decorations, and have purged the rest so I am not tempted to get them out and go through all the decorating hub-bub.

 

 

So why did I do all this.  Because it just wasn’t feeling like a holiday…the spirit of the winter season and Christmas holiday had somehow been lost.  When I should have been slowing my pace and enjoying, I was actually in high gear with too much anxiety and frustration over all the ‘Have To Do’ things….and it spilled over to family making their holiday less than pleasurable.

 

 

Now instead, I ‘get to do’ those things I love.  Yes I know many people cannot just chuck it all.  There are family traditions, children, grandchildren…but I do think we all need to find a bit of time for ourselves and for our own sanity.  You say you don’t have the time.  Well that is precisely when you need to find some time!

 

 

Start slow and with one thing.  Not sending as many cards perhaps.  Or holding back on some of the baking and decorating.  It really is an individual thing.  Look for those things that no longer give you joy, and start your purging there.  That is how I started.  And certainly keep those traditions you love.  They are important.

 

 

DSCN4277Cutting back on a one or two small things will allow you to slow your pace.  Giving you a needed break.  And did you know that if you slow down as you move through your holiday rituals, you will enjoy them more.  So take a cue from nature and her rhythms to slow down this time of year.  Savor the beauty of nature and the season.  The time spent with loved ones.  Give the gift of time to yourself to renew…get to know yourself and reconnect with your inner core to build your strength below the surface.  Allowing your body, mind and soul to grow again….finding that sheer bliss inside!

 

 

 

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So how do you slow down the pace right now and enjoy the winter and holiday season?  You can read more of my thoughts about winter in my posts, Winter’s Gifts and Winter’s Moods.

 

 

 

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Special Note:  The pictures, in the first part of the post, were taken this year from my front porch.  The violas, I grew from seed, were a special view as they were planted in multiple vases.  The other views are of my gazebo.  Each of these pictures evokes a sense of relaxation for me.

 

 

 

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I leave you with a few additional words On Slowing the Pace.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.

slow

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden: On Growth

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“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” ~Cynthia Occelli

 

 

 

It seems appropriate in late autumn to look back on the garden.  As I assess my garden, weed and clear a bit of debris, I look for the changes my garden has been going through.  How it has grown, and what future paths it may take.

 

 

And with this time in my garden, I also look inward.  To reflect on where I have grown and how far I have come this past year.  Autumn spells the time of moving from the full moon of summer to the waning moon….a great time of introspection…of restoration and preparing for the dreaming time of winter.

 

 

DSCN8714So what do I see in my garden as it declines and goes back to the soil…to the roots?  I see seeds forming everywhere.  Nuggets of wisdom that are forming on the plants, falling to the ground or flying on the breeze to land and grow again.  Perhaps morphing a bit, growing bigger and stronger plants.

 

 

Seeds are amazing.  To me the giver of life.  They hold everything that is needed to grow a complete plant that bears fruit or flower.  They symbolize the cycle of life.  And when I hold seeds in my hand, I am grateful for their work.

 

 

In order to grow, we do have to crack our hard outer shells, much like a seed.  We draw in nutrients to help us set down deep roots.  Then we grow from those core roots finally producing fruit.  But it doesn’t end there.  As that fruit holds the seeds to continue the cycle of life.  During autumn, I look for the seeds that are being formed inside of me.  Which will I give nourishment to so the fruit of my dreams is realized.

 

 

DSCN8712My garden is the perfect spot to reflect on life.  And my life seems to follow nature….follow the seasons and the cycles of the moon.  And while the seed represents my life, I think it also represents my soul.  So I come to sit with my soul now in the waning garden, under a waning moon.  To meditate in silence, clear the debris and make room for new growth to come.

 

 

We are growing constantly even if we don’t immediately see it.  Nothing in nature remains the same, and so it is with us.  And as the changes I have gone through this year reach the nourishing light of day, I am grateful for them all.  These changes represent times of learning and growth.

 

 

So now I take seeds into my hands in autumn, and cast them upon the barren soil wishing them gratitude with water and light….planning and dreaming in winter to see them sprout in spring.  There is no fear as I wait and dream….just pure joy and anticipation for changes yet to come.

 

 

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So how is the garden of your life?  What dreams have you been casting onto the soil?

 

 

 

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Special Note:  The pictures here are of Autumn grasses from my garden this year, as nature prepares to cast the seeds produced.  Letting them rest as she turns her energies inward to replenish herself.

 

 

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I leave you with a few additional words On Growth.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.

growth

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden: On Resting

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“A change is as good as a rest.”
― Stephen King

 

 

I am not sure I totally agree that change can be restful.  When our lives go through so much change, we need a period of rest afterwards to replenish our weary bodies and minds.  Our lives can be so overwhelming at times.  So much coming at us.

 

 

And yet there are times when my life feels stuck….repeating the same things over and over….boredom sets in and what I need is a change to refresh myself.  And in these times change can bring about the feeling of rest.  A change of scenery, a change in routine or interacting with different people.  These all can invigorate me on many levels.

 

 

DSCN6101It is important to take care of our total health; body, mind and spirit.  But we can’t always just take a trip or be away from our busy lives.  In these times for me, I carve out just 10 minutes and go to one of my special spots.  Those places that refresh me as soon as I enter, like my garden.  You might also have a special spot.  A hot bath, a favorite chair in which to meditate, a walk to a local park nearby, maybe even a nap.  All can bring about the rest and change we seek…we crave…we need.

 

 

The seasonal changes can also bring about that change we desire.  Sometimes the change may be from a resting state to a reawakening as with the coming of spring.  And other times, it is the need to slow down.  I think that is why I love to see Autumn come.

 

 

With Autumn my senses come to life as I observe first subtle changes of leaf color around me.  And then I watch nature take hold as she prepares to rest….all her critters calling to me to come with them and partake in this time to slumber.  For me it is like going to a spa, or participating in a prolonged meditation.  I feel the same benefits.

 

 

fall rest
And rest is essential if we are to revitalize ourselves from time to time.  We can become so busy living our lives that we miss the signals our bodies give us…..subtle at first and then sometimes a hard hit to make us notice that we have been doing too much…..going faster, harder, longer.

 

 

Without the time to slow down and be gentle with ourselves, we will use up our energy and compromise our health.  Just finding 10 minutes once a day can work wonders.  A little chunk of time where we can turn our compassion inward upon ourselves, and give ourselves the gift of rest.

 

 

 

Do you give yourself this gift of rest and renewal?  What works for you?

 

 

 

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Special Note:  The pictures here are of Autumn scenes from my garden last year, as nature prepares to rest and turn her energies inward to replenish herself.

 

 

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I leave you with a few additional words On Resting.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.

rest

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations in the Garden-On Perseverance

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“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

~Winston Churchill

 

 

If my gardens have taught me anything in the last 20+ years, it is the lesson found in this wonderful quote.  And oh how I have stumbled and bumbled around in my garden.  Planting mint or anything in the mint family in a moist sunny spot….a nightmare as it takes over.  Letting teasel go to seed in the meadow…..you get a meadow of teasel, not native wildflowers.  Or trying to grow tomatoes in a spot with barely a few hours sunlight….you might get one tomato if you are lucky.

 

 

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And through all these experiences, I have continued forward.  With a dogged determination to not give in or give up, but to persevere.  To keep going and fighting and learning from these mistakes…..I like to call them experiences.  Yes I could give up.  I have thought about it.  But a voice replays a very wise saying in my ear each time I do want to just throw up my hands….’It is, what it is.

 

 

It took me a long time to figure out what that meant and not fight against it too hard, because it is like beating your head against a wall.  So what to do when you plant mint?  Continue to rip it out.  You will still have enough to use, but it will not take over.  With teasel (pictured here), which is a beautiful and somewhat dangerous plant, you have to keep pulling it out too.  Eventually you get ahead of it and begin to see progress.  The plant cannot get a foothold and you can see your wildflowers flourish instead.

 

 

There are times shear willpower will not win out, and during those times I study, plan and put in the effort.  Take growing tomatoes.  We knew we needed more sun so we waited until we had a sunny spot to grow them.  But then wilt and blight killed the plants.  And year after year with no tomatoes we again contemplated throwing in the trowel.  Instead I looked for hybrid tomatoes that were grown to resist these fungal diseases.  I tested different ones until we found those we liked, and now we have tomatoes growing and ripening.

 

 

IMG_7513As it is with my garden, so it is with life.  Things have not always turned out as I had envisioned.  My story has changed many times through many lessons and hardships.  The paths I followed led to new paths…some good and some not so good.  And sometimes I let setbacks get to me, but not for long.

 

 

Through it all, there has been one constant…..I never stopped trying to reach a dream. Those dreams may have been delayed until the timing was right.  Each struggle helping me grow, to make me ready.  To learn the lessons hidden inside the wait and the struggle. And many times I let the dream go…not giving up, but releasing my tight hold on it.  Inevitably the dream came back around, many times changed and morphed into something better.

 

 

And it was because of this steadfastness I cultivate inside of me, that I have grown.  I have a rich, purposeful life.  Maybe not the life I envisioned or dreamed about many years ago, but a wonderful life.  Full of rich experiences with persistence and determination…a life of happiness and joy.  And now on this new path since retirement, I am learning many things still.  Not content to sit and let my memories wash over me.  No I am flexing those ‘moxie muscles’ again as I pursue new dreams…new hopes with the same perseverance I have always shown.  I whisper these new dreams on the wind, let them go and continue to move forward one step at a time.  I am excited to see what comes back to me in time.

 

 

teasel collage

 

 

 

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Special Note:  The pictures here are of wild teasel or Dipsacus fullonum.  It is considered an invasive plant and weed here in the US that was introduced in the 1800s for use in the textile industry.  In The Language of Flowers, it has come to represent Misanthropy.  The plant is not to be trusted as it is covered in sharp barbs from tip to root, and will cause injury if you get tangled in it.

 

 

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I leave you with a few additional words about Perseverance.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.

on perserverance

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden-On Judgment

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“Once in a golden hour
I cast to earth a seed.
Up there came a flower,
The people said, a weed.”
― Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

 

 

When spring rolls around, my garden is filled with birds all looking for a spot to nest and raise their young.  They are very territorial, and inevitably fights break out as they did this past May with the hummingbirds.  There are clashes as one bird runs another out of a nesting box or destroys a nest or fights over a feeder.  And there are times when some try to run me out of my garden….darn swallows.

 

 

But there is one rule in my garden, that we must treat each other with respect and kindness.  I know these are birds, and they are driven by primal instinct, but I still do have to have a few words with some birds.

 

 

IMG_3579Yes, I know I am judging the actions of birds based on my own perceptions of life, and it is rather silly.  But no more silly than when we judge others and their actions based on how WE think they should act.  I find not judging ourselves and others is a difficult habit to break.  Last week I focused on accepting myself more, and judging myself less.  Now I am drawn to this habit of judging others, and how I am trying to lessen these instances of judgment too.

 

 

Of course it is only natural that we judge.  We judge someone innocent or guilty in a court of law.  We make ‘judgment calls’ as we make decisions.  And it is human to look at a situation, and think if we would do the same thing or how we might change a situation.  Most of the time, these judgments are based on our way of looking at the world.  It does not usually consider the other person’s life and reasons for their actions as we don’t always know these.  And am I so perfect, that I know for a fact that I have never behaved in this way or ever will.

 

 

Is there so little compassion for other’s and their lives, their trials, their imperfections?  Can we not forgive, move on or try to help instead?  And here’s another thought….their life and actions are not about me.  Someone did not just cut me off on the highway because they didn’t like me, or my car or simply because they were a jerk (OK not usually though).  Perhaps they were delayed and know that if they don’t get to work on time they will be fired.  Have I ever been in such a hurry that I cut someone off…I am sure I have, and usually I wasn’t even aware of it or said, ‘oops sorry but I’m in a hurry.’   No excuses for our behavior, just the reality of life as it streams by.

 

 

DSCN5616When I hear my judgy voice start, I also hear my dad’s voice saying….’now Donna, you don’t know the circumstances…have you never felt like this before.’  And I begin replacing the judgment with either compassion or a ‘let it go’ attitude instead.   After all when I am in a judgment frame of mind, it is usually followed by anger and frustration.  And who wants to feel upset.

 

 

We all have our own taste in things…we know what we like, and what we don’t like.  But it is when I start judging others by my likes, that I need to step back.  This is where I started my change in thinking about judgment.  So I don’t like Rap music.  OK, but I don’t have to judge someone as having no taste in music if they like it.  You’ve heard the judgements:   why can’t a neighbor keep a more attractive yard free from clutter….then there are those outfits we see some people wearing out in public…what were they thinking….it goes on and on.

 

 

So I am starting to practice less judgment and more compassion.  I can dislike someone’s behavior, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them or think they are a jerk.  I have a choice really.  I can let it go or have a compassionate talk with them about it.  I can educate them, and model a different way.  But in the end their behavior is about their lives, and where they are on their journey.  I cannot change their behavior, only they can if it is what they want.

 

 

IMG_2807And there is no point in labeling their behavior selfish, stupid, mean or any other name you want to pick.  Because it has no meaning for them, and it just adds to negative feelings for me.  I can’t stop anyone else from judging others, but I can be a model of compassion instead.  And hope that with my showing more compassion toward others, they might judge less.

 

 

 

 

Special Note:   The flowers shown here are yellow marigolds.  In The Language of Flowers, yellow marigolds represent self-judgement.

 

 

 

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I leave you with more thoughts about judgment.  Feel free to download this photo and share.

judgment

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations in the Garden-On Self-Nourishment

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“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by my self.” ~Brian Andreas

 

 

A few months ago I participated in a free online course where 30 inspiring people shared their thoughts and practices on self-love.  It was coordinated by Susannah Conway and called April Love.  It was a time to explore and celebrate ourselves, so it was right up my alley.

 

 

One of the early subjects was about self-care.  The question posed was, “Where did you learn about self-care?”  I was intrigued because I had never thought about this question specifically.  And when I tried to recollect where I had indeed learned about self-care, I couldn’t recall anything concrete, which wasn’t unusual as I found out.

 

 

Sure I had heard about good nutrition from my parents and teachers…read about it throughout my life as I tried diet after diet.  Knew my diet was atrocious as I was a sugar addict.  I knew it was important to be active, and that once I graduated high school, my college days found me putting on weight that was hard to take off.  I participated in exercise programs and did the yo-yo diet thing.  So this was really the sum total of my knowledge on the subject for quite a while.

 

 

My parents were great always encouraging us to try new things, do our best, work hard and cheered us on.  They let us stumble, and they were there to help us pick up the pieces if we needed them.  So I had positive experiences, and had learned problem solving and resilience.

 

 

And as I delved into this topic of self-care, it seemed it was asking me to consider so much more when thinking about self-nourishment.  What were the practices that helped to nourish more than just my body? And why is nourishment so important?  Well if we don’t fill our bodies and souls with nourishing foods and practices, then we will be empty, depleted and not able to give to ourselves and others.  I saw this happening when I was working in my 9-5 or really my 7-7 job getting little sleep.

 

 

And I see it now with friends and family who are caring for aging parents….we empty DSCN4806ourselves, get sick and our bodies are in turmoil.  We consider our needs last many times, or we think we can push ourselves through and then find time to replenish…a mistake I made too many times as I never did find enough time to replenish all I was taking away from myself in terms of nourishing food, sleep, time for myself to be quiet and at peace.

 

 

So that is why in my first year of retirement, I learned finally about self-care and about how to nourish myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  I discovered that complete health requires all these pathways be nourished.  I am no longer shy about setting limits for myself, and adhering to them when I feel my body, mind or soul out of sorts.

 

 

So what do I do to nourish myself these days?  Sleep…lots of sleep as my body dictates.  I have also cultivated some wonderful habits and routines that really bring me peace of mind.  I start my day with meditation, journaling and quiet solitude.  It is a must for me to wake with a quiet mind so my soul can feel nourished.  No crazy busy schedules to ruminate on.  I now make sure my schedule is workable for me, and change it if it is not.

 

 

After about a half hour of quiet time, I roust my husband and we take a half hour walk in the neighborhood.  It is great to have him walking with me as this close personal time is also nourishing both our spirits.  And we each crave the quiet time watching and listening to the world wake around us….breathing in the cooler air scented with grass and flowers.  We watch baby birds and bunnies stretching their young bodies and trying to forage on their own.  What a delight and such immense peace and solace gained from being immersed in nature.

 

 

Of course a healthy breakfast is a must (lovingly prepared most mornings by my husband), and then it is on to the daily chores and appointments and my work of gardening and writing.  I have settled into this new role as a writer, and it is nourishment as well for my mind and spirit.  Finding this new work that brings so much satisfaction.

 

 

I have discovered recently that I need an evening routine that helps to soothe me and quiet my mind so I can sleep more restfully.  I am a voracious reader, and always find reading at night helps to tire me, and quiet my mind somewhat.  But I need something more.  So I am working to add a short meditation and stretching routine.  My old habit of “vegging out” in front of the TV is not the best, but at one time it was an effective numbing technique I used to use.

 

 

My garden is always a great teacher.  Recently it has been nourished by the rain, DSCN4807replenishing itself by putting on new growth, sending up more flowers.  Without the needed nourishment from the soil, air and rain, it would not thrive.  We are like that garden needing to replenish and feed our bodies, minds and spirits lest we dwindle too.  So as my life changes and I grow older, I am finding it even more important to nourish myself in new ways I may not have considered before.  Stretching my mind as well as my body, and touching deep into my soul to fill up the wellspring of my being.

 

 

So where did you learn about self-care?  Were you self-taught?  And what do you do to nourish yourself these days?

 

 

 

Special Note:   The velvety foliage pictured here is from Lady’s Mantle or Alchemilla mollis, a wonderful plant to capture raindrops or dewdrops.  They look like they are bedazzled with diamonds.  In The Language of Flowers, Alchemilla mollis, means “the little alchemist”.  A perfect plant to feature as I talk about self-care.

 

I am also featuring my dwarf willow tree in the picture below.  The Ancient Celts used the willow in bringing about psychic visions that produced a clearer understanding of the world.

 

 

 

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I leave you with more thoughts about self-care.  Feel free to download this photo and share.

self-care

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden: On Prioritizing Health

DSCN9200“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos—the trees, the clouds, everything.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

 

One year ago today, I was coming home from the hospital after what was to be a simple operation to repair a tricky hernia.  But one overnight stay turned into 5 days in the hospital, and weeks of hell.  Operations rarely go as planned and we can never expect they will…at least I don’t anymore.

 

 

But with the help of a skilled healer/acupuncturist, I was able to get my body to start healing itself.  It is amazing what our bodies can do, if we can connect with them.  If we listen…deeply listen and then do what our gut is telling us to do.

 

 

DSCN9773When I had the initial pain with the hernia, I knew deep down inside what it was, but believed it would go away.  I didn’t mention it to my acupuncturist or a doctor.  But at a baby shower, a nurse friend convinced me to have it looked at….of course the next morning I ended up in the ER with some of the most excruciating pain of my life…..they were convinced it was something else, but I kept saying hernia….and surprise, surprise it was a hernia.

 

 

So when did my health derail….it seemed when I focused more on my job than my health…believing it would all be temporary and that there was nothing to worry about.  And I noticed that my garden also became neglected when I was too busy with work….that neglect becoming a metaphor for my failing health.  Both my body and garden were clogged with weeds, starved for nutrition and needed to be reshaped.  So I finally took my health seriously, and began to pay close attention to my body (and garden), and listen when they spoke to me.

 

 

I have been working on getting my body systems realigned and regulated….and I have learned what to do if they are not.  I practice daily meditation…it has been an amazing part of my morning that I cannot go without.  I connect with my body by quieting my mind in meditation.  And my body relaxes too….so important for a strong start to my day.  And this connection to my body is like the connection I have with my garden.  I nourish both with natural wholesome organic foods, and they both repay me in bountiful ways.  Of course my garden actual nourishes me during the garden season as we grow many of our own organic vegetables.

 

 

IMG_2360And it isn’t just about getting enough quality food or sleep or exercise.  It is about quality of life too.  Doing what brings you happiness…engaging in creative pursuits and play often….spending time with friends and family.  Having quiet time to yourself to just be in the moment.  These quality of life things, that we sometimes forget, do make all the difference in our healing and health.

 

 

Healing is about your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.  If any of these are neglected, we will not fully heal or maintain our health.  So for me it is a holistic approach to health considering all four of these components.  I advocate for myself and make my health my priority, as I have seen first hand what happens when we disconnect from our bodies and neglect our health.

 

 

So I continue to tweak my routines and habits, adding things that will improve my health as I age, one small step at a time.  I have learned it is not a race, but an individual slow journey this path to perfect health.  And we can get to our destination happier and healthier by making our lives, and our health a priority.

 

 

 

 

Note:   In the Language of Flowers, yarrow represents good health.  I chose pink yarrow, because pink symbolizes the feminine as well as compassion, nurturing and love.

 

 

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I leave you with another thought about good health and being good to yourself.  Feel free to download this photo and share.

health

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden-On Living with Uncertainty

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“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.  Delicious Ambiguity.”  ~Gilda Radner

 

 

 

There is one thing I know that is definite about life….we are all going to die someday.  Now I know this is not a major revelation nor even a pleasant thing to think about.  But the realization of this fact recently caught up with me.  Prior to that, this fact was pushed far down into the nether reaches of my brain so I didn’t have to deal with it.

 

 

Talking about death was scary because for me there was nothing definitely known about what happens to us when we die.  I also didn’t want to leave those I loved, and there was so much I still wanted to do with my life.  But the fact that I am going to die someday was always looming somewhere in my brain even if I resisted it.

 

 

And dealing with the death of loved ones, I think was even more painful because I couldn’t DSCN5808accept the finality of death.  That sense of loss was too great for me.  So I always pushed it away.  Recently, it has been continuing to dominate my thoughts.  Perhaps because of my mother’s failing health.  And perhaps because another birthday is coming closer to another decade done for me.

 

 

These thoughts had been weighing on me, and it was finally time to face them….to deal with them as we each must do in our time.  And when I ran across this quote, everything suddenly changed for me…becoming clearer.

 

 

I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.  ~Brené Brown

 

 

And reality hit me square in the face….I had been limiting myself, my life.  Not really living…wrapped in deep fear, and dipping deep into unhappiness many days, all because I couldn’t deal with the uncertainties of life.  And maybe too because the only certainty was not such a pleasant prospect.

 

 

DSCN5795As a gardener, I face uncertainty every season.  When winter yields to spring, I am never sure what damage will be shown once the snow melts.  What flowers and plants will have succumbed to nature’s wrath and the natural process of dying.

 

 

In gardening it is an accepted fact, this life and death cycle.  If you don’t accept it, you won’t be gardening for long as the disappointment can be too great and defeating for some.  But not for me.  I have learned from my mistakes, and the ravages of nature that are out of my control.  I have shifted my perspective, and learned to accept each season as it comes, no matter what happens and enjoy the garden knowing it is never the same year to year.

 

 

So why does it seem easier to accept uncertainty in my garden?  I think because the joys I have found in gardening far outweigh any disappointments, and maybe make the successes of the flowers that present themselves so much more meaningful.

 

 

I have even come to enjoy the stages or seasons in my garden.  The first signs of new life DSCN5811and focusing on the beauty it brings as we get into the many flowers of spring and summer.  And learning to love the fading autumn beauty of my garden, still alive and exquisite setting up new life as it turns to seed.

 

 

These stages of life in my garden have become an inspiration for me.  They present themselves in each day as the sun begins to lighten the sky, until the last rays of light fade bringing the beauty of the stars at night.  I appreciate the fullness of each part of my day as new experiences dawn, and my body breathes in the life each new hour brings.

 

 

And I have begun to notice myself in each subtle shift this year.  I have learned that while I know there is a winter in my garden, as there is in my life, I don’t have to perseverate on it.  Instead, I can acknowledge that my time, like my garden, is limited, but it is in the moments between my birth and death that I find my greatest joys and fulfillment…this is where I choose to reside, to bloom and grow until my last breath.  Seeking the uncertainty where that delicious ambiguity resides.

 

 

 

Note:   In the Language of Flowers, daffodils represent uncertainty.  I decided to feature daffodils that were hit by a snow storm last year, and still continued to go on blooming brightly.  When they were weighed down by the cold and snow, I was uncertain if they would survive.  There was a beautiful quality about these daffodils even as they faced death.  But in the end they showed their resilience and strength as they went on to live their lives fully in my garden.

 

 

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I leave you with another thought about uncertainty.  Feel free to download this photo and share.

uncertainty

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden- On Awareness

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A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.

~Leonard Nimoy


 

 

My mom is now in the winter of her life.  At 83, her body is shutting down, and she is in need of more assistance in her basic daily living skills.  It has been a traumatic journey for her recently, and given me much on which to pause and reflect.

 

 

DSCN0389I think about all she has given me over the years.  I was a sickly child, with asthma from the time I was born.  I almost died of pneumonia when I was one, and was in and out of hospitals from a very early age.  I had every childhood disease imaginable.  And in all that time, my mom never complained, and never once wasn’t there for me.

 

 

And now in her most vulnerable time, I try to be there with comforting words.  To give her guidance, to talk about her day, every day I can even though I am almost 3000 miles away.

 

 

And I think about my own mortality, now more than ever before.  How much time I have left here on this earth, in this body.  How long will it continue to allow me to do and think about the things I love….even the everyday things like walking, eating, breathing.

 

 

DSCN0384As I think about all this, I am drawn back to the Wabi-Sabi principles I learned about in January, in particular Principle 6:  Accept the inevitable.  Life is evanescent.  Before we know it another day has gone by, and then another month and another year….and then more years than we care to think about.

 

 

 

So if life is so fleeting, what can we do to not let it pass us by?  I think this is why I have been in a ‘noticing’ frame of mind recently.  To experience each moment….be present, be aware of my surroundings.  Really look, and deeply listen.  And especially become aware of myself.  Observing how I feel, what I am doing, how I am reacting to my life.  What choices I am making.  What might I want to change or do with my life right now.

 

 

DSCN0485And I have found great freedom in this noticing.  I find I am free now to do what I want…whatever that might be.  I am still discovering, even now in my life, that new paths are always showing themselves to me if I can be more aware.

 

 

Winter is a great time to reflect on our lives.  This past winter was a brutally cold one.  One that wore on with endless days of piles of snow unrelenting, and a frigid, bone chilling wind that never ceased to howl.  And under all that snow was a garden about to come to life again.  But for a long time though this winter, all I could see were my memories of it as it was held frozen below the landscape of white.

 

 

DSCN0516And if I take any lessons from this winter, it is this season will pass and be replaced by a new season, a new path, a new time, a new memory.  As I sit with the window cracked listening to the last of winter’s winds blow through the barren trees, I smell the change it is bringing.

 

 

And I hear the birds once again singing in a new season….rejoicing for this new time that is at hand.  A time to celebrate the beauty of what was, and what is to come.  A new garden to be born with new memories to be made.  My life, still before me each new day lived to its fullest.  The possibilities are endless when we are aware, in the moment.  

 

 

 

I am sharing this life and garden lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme.  I hope you will join her.

 

 

 

 

Note:   All these images, of my garden, were taken this February during our brutal winter.  Even in its bitter cold and snow, there was beauty to be found.  The last photo is of my early spring garden last year.

 

 

The quote, at the beginning of the post, is the last Tweet Leonard Nimoy made a few days before he died.  I found it inspiring, thoughtful, and in his honor as Mr. Spock, “fascinating”.  May we all, “Live long and prosper”.

 

 

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I leave you with another thought about aging, acceptance and life.  Feel free to download this photo and share.

worry

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden-On Being Sensitive

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“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.”  ~ Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

 

 

Several years ago, I was vacationing with family at the beach.  Growing up, I used to watch my dad body surf, and always wanted to give it a try.  This day the water seemed to be calm enough to attempt it….enough of a wave to push you to shore, but not too rough.  So I eased myself into the next wave, skimming the top and riding it to shore.  After a few more tries, the ocean felt a bit rough so I thought, just one more time.

 

 

That one more time was almost my last as an undertow took me down under the water.  If you have ever been caught in an undertow, you know the panic that can ensue.  I fought and fought, to no avail, the strong pull keeping me on the bottom of the ocean floor.  So near to the shore yet unable to reach safety.

 

 

In those tense seconds when I realized what was happening, I also realized I could die and that these might be my final moments of life.  I am a strong fighter, but in this time when panic was reaching up through my body and strangling me, I suddenly decided to relax.  I let go of all the panic, all the struggling and went with the flow of the water.  I let my primal instinct take over, and suddenly I was on the surface and close to the shore, my feet touching soft sand as the water lapped around my knees.

 

 

Fear cannot be banished, but it can be calm and without panic; it can be mitigated by reason and evaluation.  ~Vannevar Bush

 

 

DSCN7761I was reminded of this lesson recently when I found myself getting into a knee jerk reaction that brought back some unpleasant memories.  I had been growing herbs under my “grow lights” in the basement and was just about to start my seed growing, when two of the three lights went dark.

 

 

And right on cue, I went into panic mode.  How was I going to grow these herbs without lights?  Where could we find replacement bulbs?  I had to start seeds soon, and how could I without these lights.  I was spinning within this deep felt craziness, when I suddenly realized these were similar feelings I had a year ago in reaction to stress on the job.  Stress that finally led to my retirement, and that I thought I had released.  But given a seemingly small crisis, I went right back down that dark hole of despair.  Wow!

 

 

And once I was able to step back from the situation, I found I could let go of the panicky reactions and evaluate the situation.  All was not lost.  I could move plants to windows.  I could search for bulb replacements, and I could postpone the seed growing.  All better plans than to keep spinning in this stream of negativity I was creating for myself.

 

 

I think the garden has been the best classroom for learning how to handle what life throws at me.  Every year I never know what nature will bring.  A long cold winter, followed by a late freeze killing flowers or vegetables.  A drought or flooding rains.  And each scenario, in each new year, is different making for interesting lessons to learn so much more about my garden and myself.

 

 

As a gardener, I have found it doesn’t pay to give in to panic or worry.  When I DSCN7759started growing veggies, the first one I attempted was the tomato.  Any good Italian must be able to grow tomatoes, right?  But every year it was something new….sometimes it was the disease known as ‘blight’ killing the plants, or it was the deer eating the plants to the ground.  But I never gave up trying to get the tomatoes to produce an abundant crop.  Instead I tried hybrid seeds that were bred to fight diseases, and I netted the tomatoes to keep out the critters, but let in the pollinators.

 

 

And you know what?  I now have tomatoes.  Oh I still have to be vigilant, to make sure the pests and diseases are kept in check.  But instead of worrying and panicking, I now ease into the situation nature presents, look for solutions, and I don’t beat myself up over what happens.  Great lessons I am trying to stay mindful of as life presents itself.

 

 

So am I still sensitive to the curve balls life can throw me?…..Absolutely.  And is my first reaction still panic?…..Sometimes.  But I am reminded quickly that life is what you make it.  It is more about how you react or don’t react.  And in those moments when I need to step back, I go into my garden to be with nature.  To feel the slow pace of life where I take a look around and be in the moment.  Because it is in those moments that I find my inner wisdom calling me to breathe in life and let go.

 

 

Note:   The purple iris pictured here is symbolic of wisdom.  

 

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I leave you with another thought about sensitivity, strength and wisdom.   Feel free to download this photo and share.

iris confidence

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden-On The Freedom To Soar

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“If you let go a little you will have a little happiness. If you let go a lot you will have a lot of happiness. If you let go completely you will be free.” ~Ajahn Chah 

 

 

As the New Year dawned, I was excited for all the adventures and changes that I imagined were ahead of me.  But as the days stretched out in front of me, I felt as if my enthusiasm had already waned.  I thought, ‘really, how could this be already’….’had I chosen the wrong mantra’.  No.  I knew in my heart that I was meant to use the word Soar this year as a mantra.

 

So what was wrong?  Why wasn’t I feeling any different?  Yes, I know it is not like magic when we start a new year, and presto things are changed.  But something crucial was missing.  So as I read and reflected a bit, I noticed that I was still tethered to the past.

 

With gardening we sometimes get tired of our garden…plants die, others become thugs and soon the landscape changes.  If we neglect our space, the weeds take hold and push out plants until our garden sometimes becomes unrecognizable.

 

DSCN0471That is what I noticed this past year as I lived with my garden for a year.  While there were many flowers and plants that made the garden beautiful, there were far too many weedy patches that needed a bit of work if I was going to see any semblance of a garden again.

 

As it is with my garden, so it is with my life and the weedy patches there.  Old habits, old thought patterns, old assumptions and judgements were cropping up along with old emotional reactions.  And when I dug deeper, I saw I was still surrounded by the old clutter.  Things used in a prior life that no longer served me in retirement.  If I was to stretch my wings I needed to clear out the old, to make way for the new.

 

Ready to let go and move on now, I am changing some key habits especially at the beginning and end of my day.  And my garden is integral to these new habits.  While I continue the work to transform my garden into more of a wildlife garden, I am looking for more spots where I can hear the birds, watch the hummers and butterflies, hear the water falling into the pond as the frogs croak their greeting to the sun.  The garden is a haven, a sanctuary where I plan to start each day.

 

I also want to plant more flowers that I can use for a cutting garden.  I have found making a weekly vase such a soulful experience.  Wandering, observing, creating…such deep meaningful pursuits with the satisfaction of a beautiful arrangement to see throughout my day.  I have enjoyed it so much that I plan to make more vases more often spreading them throughout the house.  Bringing more of the garden indoors will be a new habit.

 

DSCN2570I am even thinking about making it easier for me to do a bit of writing in my sanctuary.  The gazebo is a perfect spot that is underutilized so I need to find a way to be able to sit there, listen to nature and write…especially poetry which I write with pen and paper.

 

And ending my day in the garden…sitting, reflecting, perhaps writing in my journal, watching the sunset and playing more with the waning light as I try to capture it with my camera.  All wonderful ways to close the day.  And before the mosquitoes come out to stay, there are months of wonderful bug free nights where I can sit and gaze at the night sky.  Something I long to do more of…such a powerful end-of-the-day ceremony.

 

I have always had a tendency to observe myself living rather than actually experiencing life…mostly because of fear or crazy, self-imposed work habits.  But now I am feeling the need to free myself, to no longer miss out on this life.  And these new habits cultivated in the garden will go a long way in helping me spread my wings finally, and take those tentative first steps out of the security of my nest and experience the new life waiting for me in the sky.

 

 

Note:   I am using bees in flight in this post to help emphasize the idea of free flight and soaring in the garden.

 

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I leave you with another image of my word of the year, Soar.  Feel free to download this photo and share.

ddsoar2

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.