Finding home in a garden

My mother asked recently what was blooming in my new garden, and her question provided the initial inspiration for this post.

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These yellow flowers have been blooming since we arrived here.

The beautiful early spring weather has also encouraged me to share some photos with you. While locals assure me this is too early—February can still bring freezing weather—spring is here nonetheless. I plan to celebrate even if winter resurfaces later.

I still find myself unsure about planting anything given our extreme drought, but I must tend the garden that surrounds me, coaxing it to be its beautiful best. Even if I don’t plant something new, the gardening chores—pulling weeds, picking up spent camellia blooms, trimming dead blooms—invite me to put down roots of sorts, to invest my time and make myself at home in this garden.

I’m excited to see what will spring up. Perhaps this is a tulip magnolia?

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Will this unveil itself as a tulip magnolia?

I’ve discovered mint, and the lavender continues to bloom in force. A variety of yellow flowers bring cheer as they open, and several camellias are showing off.

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The most prolific of the camellia bushes

Familiar plants remind me of home and remind me that this new home is not so foreign after all. There are unfamiliar plants, too: smaller, quieter blooms I cannot yet identify but welcome with eagerness.

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I carried my camera on this morning’s walk, hoping to capture the early spring in pictures. Cheerful birdsong filled the air, a hopeful soundtrack to accompany the beauty budding out on trees and along the ground.

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This tree started blooming a week or two ago and stopped me still mid-stride when I noticed its first blooms, stark against the dark limbs.

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Little purple flowers grow amid grass and rocks by the trail.

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My favorite moment came as I readied the camera to take a close-up of the purple ground-cover flowers. I heard the deep buzz—the kind that rattles your brain in a way a bee could only dream of doing—before I saw the motion. A hummingbird reveled in the purple flowers, too, and I just managed to click the shutter before it sped off, too shy of the dog and me to linger longer.

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Not my best shot but my favorite surprise of the morning.

Before I left Raleigh, one of my dear friends prayed for God to show off for me out here. This morning felt like God delighting in the early spring “garden” and wowing me with hummingbird moments.

Is it humanity’s origins in the garden that cause us to crave what gardens provide? Though not all of us enjoy the feel of cool dirt caked under our fingernails, God can speak to us and make us feel at home in the “gardens”—cultivated or wild—surrounding us.

Some of you may be grumbling that spring seems impossibly far away, but know that the earth is at work even under ice and snow, preparing a showy display of spring for you, too.

And all too soon, I imagine I’ll be wishing to trade places with you to escape the scorching heat and drought of this place. To shore up my spirit and embrace Jeremiah 17:7-8 (flourishing like the tree that doesn’t fear when the heat comes), I need to drink in these beautiful moments so I can call upon God’s showy, golden, thriving spring garden once it is just a memory.

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How do you see God showing off for you these days?

Flourishing Trees

I walked along the greenway with my dog, both of us banished from the house in the middle of the afternoon so strangers could walk through and decide if this would become their new home. I tried to make myself at home with my thoughts, as we crunched leaves underfoot, the dog and I.

I picked up one of the biggest leaves I’ve seen this season—a perfect fall blend of red, yellow and green—and looked up to find the towering tree that shed it. Through the canopy of smaller trees, I spied it, the old giant. I decided to take its leaf home and see if, along the way, I could find its tiniest counterparts. It became a game, and my dog relished the extra stops (more nose-to-the-ground time).

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Fall leaves … giant and small

I’ve finally found the tree that sheds a different sort of huge leaf into my yard every year. It eluded me all these years, shedding its leaves before the shorter, smaller trees shed theirs and therefore making it impossible for me to know which tree dropped the large, brown leaves. The tree lives in a neighbor’s yard and freely shares its leaves with us all.

Frost said, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” and this tree is one of those somethings, caring not one whit for fences or boundary lines or yards that have been freshly raked.

You may not think of trees shedding their leaves this time of year as flourishing trees, but that’s exactly what they are. They’ve learned that to survive the cold and dark of winter, they cannot fight nature. So they shed what they don’t need for a season.

One by one, with a gentle letting go, they drop away burdens they no longer need to hold, should no longer cling to if they want to flourish in the year ahead.

Ah, to be as wise as these trees—beautiful and trusting—as they let go of what is no longer their own. As they prepare for winter, they are also preparing for the coming spring.

Dear God: Please help me be more like these flourishing trees in their season of change. Amen.

I fling up this prayer in hopes of laying down some worries and fears of the season ahead for me … so that after the winter, I will be flourishing, too.

Is there something you’re holding on to that you could let slip gently away? A concern or burden that is no longer yours to carry? Will you let these things drop away from you like so many fall leaves?

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An especially flourishing tree that has covered my recently clean driveway with a golden leaf pile

Drop me a line in the comments below to let me know if you’re able to let go of any worries troubling you. And drop by next week, when I hope to share an exciting announcement about a different sort of flourishing tree.

 

A love letter to my hometown, part 3

Dear Raleigh,

I took off from the airport Monday morning and was reminded of why your nickname is “the City of Oaks.” Green was everywhere. Trees are the finery in which you choose to clothe yourself.

Thank you for creating such a beautiful space for your citizens and guests to enjoy.

Trees line your streets:

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A busy street made beautiful by trees blooming in spring

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Trees provide shade along the parade route for the St. Patrick’s Day parade (which is another event I love you for hosting).

Trees give shelter and shade along your many running trails and in your beautiful parks:

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At Umstead. I know, I know, it’s a state park, but it’s still attached to Raleigh. And it’s beautiful any time of year.

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Some tree roots I pass by almost daily … thanks for creating so many trails and saving green spaces.

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Fred Fletcher park, a lovely place to walk or sit and enjoy Raleigh’s natural beauty

Speaking of trees’ beauty, the art museum has fabulous grounds (and a running trail runs through it—the property, not the building).

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Manmade art framing a beautiful tree

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More art, beautiful fall trees

Trees live at the heart of my favorite place to visit in Raleigh: NC State’s JC Raulston Arboretum.

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So thank you, Raleigh, for the trees. I hope you’ll keep fighting the good fight with the state to turn the Dorothea Dix property into a city park. Your efforts make me love you even more.

Best,
One of your native daughters

PS – My new city is trying to win my heart, too. When I called to set up my utilities, they said I qualified for their tree program and could get up to 12 free shade trees. One whole dozen. So, Raleigh, you may need to step up your game and see if Duke Energy or one of the other utility companies would provide such a beautiful offer to your residents.

Falling leaves and felling trees

As you probably know by now (especially if you saw yesterday’s post), I’m excited about the start of Autumn. So, let me wish you a very happy season! (And for those of you reading from the other side of the equator, happy spring!)

I love this time of year when cooler weather returns. Where I live, cooler weather has come along with cold, steady rain. I won’t complain, but after a few dreary days in a row, I’m looking forward to a clear weekend that includes sunshine without the heat of summer tagging along.

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The only leaves that have fallen so far dried in the late summer heat. Most leaves are still green, although I’ve noticed a few with just a hint of red to them. Giddiness! That tinge of red makes me giddy.

What makes me a little less giddy is the knowledge of the coming onslaught of falling leaves. We have lots of trees in our yard, and while I wouldn’t trade them for anything, that means lots of raking soon. And with our house on the market, my husband and I will have to tackle that chore more often to keep the yard looking tidy and inviting. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a yard without so many trees and therefore so many leaves to clear in the fall.

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I’m grateful that our home’s builder decided to leave so many trees in our yard. So many developers in our area clear out beautiful old growth trees to make construction easier. It strikes me as a lack of imagination or vision to clear everything away.

Near my neighborhood, a developer has just begun clearing land. Whether the final result will be new homes or offices, I don’t know. What I do know is that the usual peace has been drowned with constant machinery chewing up a forest of trees.

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Where there were trees …

Now there is mud and debris where once so many trees grew, an ugly scar where there was once so much natural beauty. I’m sad to see them all go, and I feel bad for the neighbors whose houses back up to this property, especially those who didn’t realize this development was coming soon to their backyard.

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Small tree protection areas such as this one make me cringe.

I’m relieved to see a few spindly trees with the orange protection fence around them. Even those may not survive, given the small area protected and the heavy machinery that can damage the trees’ roots growing outside of the protected zone, but at least there’s some attempt to save a few of the trees.

Maybe the developer plans to plant new trees once the buildings are done, and maybe someday this space can be beautiful again. It may be years, though, before this space experiences a beautiful Autumn again.

Without trees, could Fall be as beautiful? I don’t think so. A pumpkin spice latte and a burgundy scarf are fun, but nothing can trump (for me anyway) nature’s color palette this time of year.

Aside from the trees and the aforementioned latte and scarf, I love the crisp feel of the air, the clear sky, football, happier morning runs, the pumpkin patches and kids searching for the perfect jack-o-lantern pumpkin, pie, apples, Halloween, …

So what do you love most about Autumn? I know it’s not everyone’s favorite season, but there must be something for everyone to love about this time of year. So let’s hear it. What makes you giddy about this new season?


P.S. I learned something new today and wanted to be sure to share it with you. Google keeps an archive of its doodles. So if you missed one (like yesterday’s) that everyone at the office was talking about, you can browse through them to your heart’s content. The archive also provides a great way to see what the rest of the world is celebrating.

On finding new trees to love

I hope you won’t mind a shorter-than-usual post today. Between trying to sell a house in North Carolina and buy a house in California and finalizing my manuscript to publish my first book, my 24-hour days seem even shorter than usual.

Last week brought a whirlwind house-hunting trip, but I had a few precious hours while my husband worked, and I found a new tree or two that would make my new home feel more like … well, home. Surprisingly (given that I love to support local coffee shops when possible), these particular trees live at a Starbucks in what will be my new hometown. This Starbucks has quite possibly the most beautiful outdoor seating area of any Starbucks I’ve seen:

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Just one side of the outdoor seating area; two stately oaks

Look closer, though, and you’ll see the effects of Northern California’s severe drought, browning leaves and an early leaf shed so the trees can protect themselves.

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I’m not quite sure how I’ll adjust to such a dry environment. Do you think it’s odd that I’m already praying for rain in a place where I don’t yet have any roots?

I’ll leave you with this map of all the trees in the contiguous 48 states (how I wish they had included Alaska and Hawaii in this). How’s it look where you live? If I visited, would I find plenty of new trees to fall in love with and sit under while I drink tea and write? And finally, if I may ask a favor, would you share a kernel of wisdom about uprooting gracefully and moving to what feels like a faraway land?