“It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.”
~Henry David Thoreau
Many times when I look at nature, around me in my garden, I see one thing. And when I look again at the pictures I take, I see so much more. I see deep into these scenes, and each one teaches me something daily. So I thought, why not share some of the things I learned by watching nature in late spring….
Starting with the top picture, we are watching the baby bunny who was born here in our garden, and now visits. He is adorable, and I noticed I captured more of his shadow, than of him, as he scampered about. He was tasting the weeds and plants between the bricks as he is learning what he likes.
Seeing the sunrise, is a glorious event that gets better as dawn unfolds. I have learned to have patience, and take time to see the sun rise completely….you will be glad if you do.
And don’t forget sunset. Even through the clouds the view can be amazing!
I love wandering in the garden early in the morning. The light playing off and through the plants can take my breath away.
And even on a gray day I can see beauty. The water lilies shine against the dark water and lily pads
I am noticing the orange flowers showing up now. Orange poppies, first daylily and the Geum. They stand out against the sea of green and purple blooming right now. And this little bit of bright color, adds so much to my view.
These ox-eye daisies are an non-native plant that spreads all around my garden. I used to see them as a nuisance. but now I love the surprise of their blooms ever year. And at night, you can see them shining all over the garden like beacons.
Like many native plants, this Zizia aurea has seeded itself around the garden and meadow. And as you can see it is a pollinator favorite. I picked a few for a vase, and learned they not only have a beautiful, long-lasting flower, but they have an amazing citrus fragrance too. I can’t get enough of them.
Looking closely at a plant, can give you a special surprise. I love seeing the unusual petals I might not notice unless I took a closer look.
What are you learning from Nature these days?
I am moving my Thursday posts to Wednesday starting in July. I will still have my poetry posts on Sunday, with maybe another poetry post midweek each month. The little fairy house, below, was made by a neighbor and friend…..isn’t that just the sweetest gift.
Many evenings, as the sun slips from the sky, and darkness descends slowly, I love watching the fireflies, listening to the night noises and seeing the first stars twinkle. The sky turns from pink or purple to a beautiful Indigo. It is even more beautiful just when the moon is rising. This poem came to me one of those evenings.
“You fill a bucket drop by drop. You clear your mind thought by thought. You heal yourself moment by moment. Today I make one drop, clear one thought, and get present to one moment. And then I do it again.”
I first heard about bucket filling 5 years ago, when I was working in a new school district. I was visiting a school, and saw posters talking about ‘Filling Buckets’. I was intrigued and asked the principal what all this bucket filling was about.
She proudly explained that it was a new program to promote character building, better social skills and relationships in the school community….with parents, teachers and students. I asked how it worked and here is a bit of an explanation…..
It is based on the premise of the cup that overflowed, but instead we all have an invisible bucket that determines how we feel about ourselves, and how we feel about and get along with others. When we feel good about ourselves, and things seem to be going well, our bucket is said to be full.
Many things can fill a bucket; from a smile, to a kind word or deed. Just the simplest things can add drops to our buckets giving us emotional support and kindness….filling us with feelings of joy and happiness and self-worth. And when our bucket is full, we tend to want to act kindly toward others adding to their buckets….which then keeps our buckets full.
Of course there is another side to all this. Sometimes we use our dippers, and take from people’s buckets with unkind words and deeds. It can be the smallest of words or acts such as bringing light to someone’s mistakes through criticism or sarcasm. And when we empty someone’s bucket, we then spread the unkind words and deeds because people with empty buckets feel bad about themselves and spread those unfriendly feelings. Using our dipper has another downside, for when we empty someone’s bucket, we empty ours too.
Now all this may sound like something just for children, but the premise is a good one for all of us, regardless of the analogy we use. I rather like the visual of bucket filling as it is easy to understand and visualize. So I thought about this concept of bucket filling as I have contemplated empathy and self-compassion this month.
In order to further our efforts at self-compassion and self-love, we must refill our own buckets often. And I have been thinking about what I am doing to keep my bucket full, while filling the buckets of others at the same time.
I find making sure I have enough sleep, getting daily exercise and eating good foods that are good for me all go a long way to keeping my bucket full. Taking time for rest, meditating, and spending time in nature also add to my bucket…..as well as participating in activities I love, spending time with people I love, expressing gratitude, laughing and doing little things for others. The possibilities are endless, and grow exponentially once you start.
And when I am feeling down or miserable, and am not sure why, I think of my bucket, and pick one thing to do that will plug the hole in that bucket. It really is amazing how quickly that bucket fills again. For me the bucket is a symbol of my connection to my soul or true self. When the connection is weak I am disconnected (bucket empty), but when I feel connected to my true self (bucket full), I find my inner happiness again. So I think I will keep working on filling my bucket…how about you?
How do you fill your bucket and the buckets of others?
Special Note:The pictures here are of my meadow. The ox-eye daisies and lupines grow from May through June. I picked them and put them in a flower bucket. Filling this bucket brought me such joy!
How sweet it is has been to make your acquaintance. For years, Sleep and I were great friends, but then I let Stress take her place. And without Sleep, I was doomed to health issues. But oh Rest you know this all too well, don’t you?
So I had to tell Stress to back off as he was smothering me. But Sleep has not yet forgiven me, I fear. And our relationship cannot be the same, it seems. But I found you dear Rest. And I realized even though Nap and I don’t usually get along, I have you to help me heal.
Rest, you come to me wearing many costumes, engaged in many scenarios. Sometimes in PJs, we do nothing but watch an old movie….such sweet bliss. And in our most comfortable yoga pants, you envelop me dear Rest, as we sit together in nature drinking in all that surrounds us. Or under our garden hats, digging in the soft earth, picking a flower or pulling a weed….yes you are beside me, dear one. There are times, too, that I just need to have you close by, as I breathe slowly and deeply in the moment.
Oh, there are so many sides to your personality, dearest Rest. And I am enjoying getting to know each one intimately!
Each April I participate in a month long challenge from Susannah Conway called, April Love;extending love and kindness to ourselves. And each day in April we were challenged to write love letters given a specific topic.
I enjoyed writing these letters. But had no idea that I would use some as poems, until I read, Rosemary’s Blog, where she talked about the Poetry of Letters:
Did you know that there is a category of poems called “epistolary poems,” that the Academy of American Poets describes this way: “Epistolary poems, from the Latin “epistula” for “letter,” are, quite literally, poems that read as letters. As poems of direct address, they can be intimate and colloquial or formal and measured. The subject matter can range from philosophical investigation to a declaration of love to a list of errands, and epistles can take any form, from heroic couplets to free verse.”
And once I read this, I knew I would transform some of my Love Letters into these epistolary poems. I hope you enjoy these poems that I will post at least once a month. The pictures here are of places I love to Rest.
“Most of us are experts at solving other people’s problems, but we generally solve them in terms of our own and the advice we give is seldom for other people but for ourselves.”
Last week I talked about self-compassion, and how we must start there to increase love in our lives. It is easier said than done, as we usually can find empathy for others over ourselves. But I think it is harder to find empathy at all these days. So much judgment and criticism in the world and especially on social media.
Sure we feel ‘sorry for’ people we see on the news, or that we may know who have a serious illness, lost a family member or a job. We have all manner of feeling ‘sorry for’ people. But that is not empathy. That is sympathy. And while sympathy may seem to be the right thing in the moment, it really doesn’t go far enough. Sympathy keeps us at arms length where we really don’t have to engage with people.
When my father died, all those years ago, many people sympathized, but few understood and empathized with me….felt what I was going through and had been there perhaps. His death devastated me so much that I didn’t know how I would get through the loss. I really didn’t want to go on, and if it wasn’t for my Uncle and a dear friend, Marie, I’m not sure I would have gone on with my life. They listened, helped me cope and go on with my life.
When I listen to people, especially dear friends and loved ones, I used to find it hard to connect without trying to solve their problems. I wanted to help them so much that I found myself looking for solutions instead of listening. I mean really listening without thinking about my response….just letting them talk and say what they needed to. Assuring them I was here for them no matter what they needed.
I have worked hard to mindfully listen, to not solve problems, because the solutions are inevitably for me….how I would solve the problem. Recently a dear friend shared that living alone was getting scary as she got older. She is afraid that she could be sick and dying and no one would know. In that moment I felt her fear. And we made a pact. I would call her weekly, and if I didn’t hear back from her I would call her until she called me back. Usually I waited for her to call me, not wanting to be a pest. She thanked me and this eased her fear.
Empathy cannot always be shared with everyone for everything. And sharing our stories takes courage as we want to connect with someone we trust. Who has earned the right to hear our stories…..who is not going to be critical or hurtful.
And empathy doesn’t stop with people. Showing we care about the earth, and the critters that inhabit it, is important too. That is why I garden organically, don’t use chemicals and plant native plants as they use less water and benefit the wildlife. There is so much we can do to show everyone compassion, but it starts with how we connect with the world and ourselves. Do we approach it from a place of loving kindness and caring? I hope so….for this is the single most important thing we can do to make the world better.
How do you give others the love, empathy and compassion they need?
Special Note:The pictures here are of bee balm or Monardathat blooms in my garden all summer. In the Language of Flowers, they symbolize protection from evil and illness. Bee Balm is also said to represent fertility and promotes restful sleep.
Do you talk to the bees? Well I do. I wish them a good morning, with the sun’s first rays. And as I do, I give a wide berth to these buzzing teenagers, slow to wake. They can be ornery, you see. And if aroused, you might feel the sting of their wrath if they are still trying to sleep on their flowery beds. They require a soft voice, and gentle touch. Needing time to stretch their wings and get their bearings, they drink in the moment. They linger over their first sip of nectar or sniff of silky pollen passion. But once tasted, they move from plant to plant leaving their mark. Letting all know, “I have been here”.
I love to go into my garden and start the day by watching the bees sleeping on flowers. And I talk with them as they are just beginning to wake. Thanking them for being part of my garden sanctuary, and pollinating the flowers bringing us abundance. They remind me to savor the beginning of the day, and live in the moment.
The pictures here are of those spring bees that wake early in the garden season, and do their spring dance bringing me indescribable joy. This haibun poem is in honor of these precious bees, who are under assault from chemical warfare.
I am joining in with Poets Unitedfor their weekly poetry link up for poets who blog.
“Today I began to criticize myself and look at myself with a judgmental eye… but then instead of going all out in that direction, I stopped and I began to understand me. And then I began to be patient with me. And then I began to feel a softness in the middle of my chest. So then I concluded that I can understand and be patient with me, just like how I am always understanding and being patient with everyone else. Why? Because I deserve that, and more.”
~ C. JoyBell C.
Recently I was able to participate in two online courses about self-compassion. Even though I felt that I had made great strides in this area, when both of these courses almost simultaneously hit my Inbox, I thought I would explore this topic a bit more.
Surprisingly at first, I encountered all sorts of resistance within. But this only confirmed, I needed more work on self-compassion, and I knew I was going to learn more about this very important topic. As the above quote says we deserve understanding, patience and above all else love. And not from outside ourselves….no we must seek that love inside first.
In life we all face circumstances that are difficult to handle…challenges like the death or illness of a loved one….pressures at work or of losing a job. Busy schedules where we try to juggle more than is humanly possible. And with these trials, we also find failure. All of these can seem to happen at once until we fall into a heap thinking we can’t handle much more.
And what I have discovered in these impossible moments, is that I need to turn inward, and tap into my hidden reserves. What powers these reserves, and allows us to survive? Quite simply it is love. Not just love from others, but love of ourselves….really the most important gift we can give to ourselves and others. For when we love ourselves, the tribulations of life can seem to melt away, and our capacity to love others increases tenfold.
One of the most important things we can do when building our self-compassion, is to identify the barriers to love we have created. For me the need for perfection used to bog me down. Starting from childhood, and on into my adult life, I would berate myself for making, what I viewed as, stupid errors. I have had a long history of putting myself down that was perpetuated by some well meaning adults and teachers who continually pointed out my mistakes.
Changing an answer on a final that resulted in a grade of 98 instead of 100% would put me in a tailspin where I would call myself ‘stupid’, say ‘how I knew better’…’what was wrong with me’…and causing me to obsess on this mistake for months. Nothing was acceptable to me but perfection.
And there were other thoughts and emotions that built up barriers causing more negative talk. The list can be endless: resistance, worry, fear, self-doubt, procrastination and frustration to name a few that have plagued me. I have worked hard over the past 5 years or so to break through these self-imposed barriers.
What did I do? It really is quite simple, and a bit brave, if I say so myself. I recognize these moments where I engage in negative self-talk, and I stay in the moment with them….I feel them, where they reside in my body, and then I give myself a bit of self-love. I tell myself, out loud usually, ‘I am doing the best that I can in this moment’. Then I recognize that indeed I am doing my best….and I let go of the emotions tying me down.
Sometimes when I would rush and drop things or make a mess, I would look at why this was happening….and again this would require me to stop, focus and be in the moment. It became easily apparent, that I was rushing because of time constraints or wanting to finish…. so I would tell myself to take it slow and be in the moment more. And when I slowed, and focused, I would enjoy the task.
Each time I focused and stayed in the moment I sensed an easing of these negative emotions and self-talk. There are many practices to help with this process, and I have learned some new techniques, from the courses I took recently. I highly recommend Open Your Heart To You from Sandra@Always Well Within, and Self-Compassion taught by Kristin Neff & Brené Brown@Courageworks. Check these courses out to see when they will be offered again.
We can easily turn our self-doubt around, and embrace our own inner love. We just have to have a little courage to stay in the moment, and break through any barriers we have encased around our own hearts. And you can start by smiling at yourself a bit more, and realizing that you deserve love too. Speak to yourself as you would a good friend…..you wouldn’t berate them, right? Give yourself a few words of encouragement by being your own best friend…..you will be amazed at what that self-compassion can do for you!
How do you give yourself the love and compassion you need and deserve?
Special Note:The pictures here are of different purple irises that bloomed in my garden this spring. In the Language of Flowers, they symbolize ‘Compliments to you’. I can’t think of a better way to express self-compassion.
The plant profiled here is called Bride’s Feather, Goat’s beard or Aruncus dioicus. Its unusual blooms look like fluffy feathers. And it is a pollinator magnet. You can read more about it here. This native plant grows in my summer garden, and is pictured throughout the post.
I hope you have enjoyed reading some of my wildflower poems, over the last several weeks.
I am joining in with Poets Unitedfor their weekly poetry link up for poets who blog.
“One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us.”
As spring warms up, the birds come flocking to our garden. Many have visited before, and return to find feeders, nesting areas or boxes, and a habitat in which to raise their young. Chemical free with lots of plant debris. And water….a nice pond to drink from or bathe in. More on the pond in another Wildlife post in the months ahead.
And each critter who wakes or visits, teaches us lessons in how they live, cohabitate and survive. So here are some of the mid to late spring visitors to our garden.
Squirrels naturally assume that wherever they are, is the place to be. We have found many black walnuts in and around the garden; some eaten, some forgotten. The squirrels love to play around and explore every nook and cranny of the garden, high and low. I can tell you this favorite perch on the wren house had to be vacated once the wrens were back.
And what a surprise to see this baby bunny just out of the nest. In March, we saw a pregnant female near the big ash trees in the center of the garden. I could not find the nest, but eventually, once they left, I saw the small opening. It is not uncommon to have a nest in our garden each year, but this year they nested early because of the very warm March weather.
This little babe was hiding in the middle of a bunch of daffs absolutely still (see last photo at end of post). I almost didn’t see it. It eventually moved more to the edge of the daffs the next day, and then it was gone. We see a small bunny around our neighbor’s shed so perhaps we will see her in our garden eating the clover that is flowering.
Pollinators were cautious of the warm March weather, and were slow to emerge in April. But once they did, they were busy making nests in the bee house we have. I am not good at identifying bees, but these are small solitary bees.
The pond also awoke cautiously in later April. Frogs…..
and toads. This is a female toad laying eggs for the first time in the pond. I’ll have their story for you this summer. And I’ll show you the pond project that has been a roaring success for the critters.
Pileated woodpeckers live here year round, or so it seems. They have been busy in the garden since February, digging holes and getting the insects that have been living in trees and stumps.. This female visits often. I plan to have a post about these majestic creatures this fall.
Finches live here all year round too. They eat the dandelion seeds, in spring, that are all over the back lawn…which is mostly dandelions and clover. The Goldfinch looks very happy, and the House Finch looks like he got caught in the act.
Red-wing blackbirds came early with the robins this year. They returned to their territory and nesting areas, and many visited the suet feeders, especially this March and April as the cool weather kept their insect diet at bay.
Other familiar year round faces are the Cardinals, here, and the Song Sparrow in the picture at the top of the post. Cardinals sing all year round too. It is a beautiful song.
….and the Ruby-throated hummingbirds. We put up feeders, for both birds, but more birds prefer the Oriole feeder, even the hummer above. Both birds arrived a day apart in the evening, and were exhausted taking long drinks and resting on the feeder.
Our oriole feeder holds sweetened water, and cups for grape jelly. And as we were refilling the jelly, the Orioles couldn’t wait to partake…..you can see we didn’t even have to hang the feeder.
And Orioles (left and top right) are not the only ones who love the sweetened water and jelly. Downy Woodpeckers (center right) visit frequently, along with Catbirds (lower right), Sparrows and a newcomer to the garden…..
…Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. A stunning bird isn’t it.
I am struck by the spring lessons of caution and focus as I observed, looking back at our visiting and year round critters. Pollinators and pond critters took their time not being lured out of hibernation too soon. And I was cautious too as I observed an early spring that turned back to winter. And those critters that came too early, weathered the storm and showed me such resilience.
Once the critters arrived for spring, they were focused on their chores of finding food, and procreating. I too was very focused with garden chores this spring. And we will see the fruit of their labors soon enough with baby frogs and baby birds being added to the garden habitat. I hope to see the fruits of my labors as well as the garden season progresses.
I am sharing these lessons with Beth@PlantPostingsfor her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme. I hope you will join her.
So there you have some of our mid to late spring visitors. I have at least two more spring stories coming in the next two months….both about the pond. What critters are showing up in your garden this spring?