Looking for answers to life's questions

Have you ever been so tired that even your fingernails hurt? That’s how I felt the last few nights after a long days of manual labor. Hard physical work is good for the body but my body keeps screaming, “You’re too old for this.”

For Alys. My fairy garden lives

For Alys. My fairy garden lives

 

Once cooler weather arrived, I was out the door trying to get the projects done that were on the list from the HOA. These are required to be done for this home that was not well cared for the past 10 years. I let a lot slip by when assessing this place for purchase. Now I really pay. In addition, I have a list of my own of things that I want done outside. My mind is totally occupied with these lists and the work being done.

Filling front porch with flowers out of the heat

Filling front porch with flowers out of the heat

 

Welcome to my home The porch needs to be resealed

Welcome to my home The porch needs to be resealed

I pressure washed the driveway side of the fence.  Tech Support did most of the rest of the fences. Now all four sides are done and ready to stain. I’m ready to do it too. I’m not sure if my body agrees. Hopefully the weather continues to cooperates and keeps the intense heat at bay.

 

Each morning I have been planting flowers and ground cover called stepables. You can walk on them just like grass and don’t have to mow. I am tired of mowing weeds so they had to go. Ground cover went down a little at a time. I used a lot of cardboard then weed block cloth. We aren’t allowed to have weeds here. I think you can be evicted for them. They give you a warning first.

 

I had 5 yards of bark dust delivered. I measured the yard and asked how much it would take to cover it. I really thought they were wrong and almost ordered 10 yards. Tech Support talked me out of it. Thank goodness!

The amount is hard to explain. It's a LOT!

The amount is hard to explain. It’s a LOT!

 

It took 3 hours of me working alone to shovel it out of the driveway into a 4 wheeled cart so it could go out back. Then Tech Support arrived home and worked with me another 2 and a half. As we were getting to the last of the pile, a neighbor boy showed up who had helped move my boulders when I moved in. He wanted to help. He was bored, like most teenagers when school is out. He has some developmental difficulties but is a good young man and a hard worker. I offered him $10 dollars and he had the rest shoveled and in the back yard in less than 30 minutes. Best $10 I ever spent.

From the driveway to the other side of the house

From the driveway to the other side of the house

What’s left is spreading the bark mulch, placing landscape logs between it and the river rock that I placed around the perimeter of the house to keep mud off, staining the fences, painting the house, and pressure washing the front porch so it can be resealed. All before autumn rains.

Going this way too

Going this way too

In addition to all the planting on the terraces, I found a need to spray paint my plastic chairs that I keep up there to rest a minute. My next door neighbor on the porch side kept asking if I would give them back to her as she needed them now. She started asking other neighbors if they would get her chairs for her. Each time she asks, I explain they are mine and I brought them with me. That satisfies her for a few moments but with Alzheimer’s, it’s an endless loop. I spoke to her son and he had locked her chairs up because she kept bringing them into the house. I finally convinced him to put one on her porch for her. Making mine a different color was the easiest solution. Alzheimer’s is something I would not wish on anyone.

My chair on the hill

My chair on the hill

My Chair on the hill after

My Chair on the hill after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love summer because we can be outside. I enjoy all the work and find much of it meditative. It just doesn’t leave much of me for anything else. I’ll pop back by when I can but you can bet I’m probably up to my elbows in stain, paint or dirt.  Maybe next summer will be a little less work and leave more time for the writing I haven’t been able to concentrate on.

I didn't paint it but it's too true.

I didn’t paint it but it’s too true.

 

That’s what’s up in my world, what’s up in yours?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

 

I have so much to tell you all about that I almost don’t know where to start. This summer has been so full I can barely catch my breath, so I’m going with what touches my heart the most and save the rest for a later post. This is my way of saying thank you for all the thoughtfulness in the world.

What I must admit here, is that I’m having a love affair with the postal service. I know, I know; they have a very bad reputation. Everyone complains on the speed of their delivery or the condition of the mail when it finally arrives. Me, I’m just very happy to get mail. It’s not often that I do but when I do, oh boy, it’s a dozy of a delivery.

I don’t get bills since mine are all paid automatically. I only get one tiny little magazine that I have subscribed to for over 20 years. Letters are few and far between, like at Christmas. But earlier this spring I received these handmade items from Fran and Steve in Tasmania via Serendipity Farms. Steve made them from their native wood.

Hand carved from native Tasmanian wood

Hand carved from native Tasmanian wood

So why the love affair? I have received in the last short while so much wonderful mail that I could almost kiss my mail carrier, Mo. (short for Maureen). I’m not sure she would appreciate the kiss. She’d rather have cookies or banana bread but it’s too hot to bake. I just received this wonderful hand-made thank you card.

A wonderful hand crafted thank you. So much thought went into it.

A wonderful hand crafted thank you. So much thought went into it.

Most of my mail has had an aqua tinge to it. It’s now also becoming a favorite color of mine. Can you guess who sent all this wonderful mail?

Aqua and pink are the signature colors here.

Aqua and pink are the signature colors here.

The first package arrived a several weeks ago. There was an Easter bunny in there and chocolate. My son saw the chocolate and decided I needed help with my diet. The rest was pure fun.

The second was supposed to be just a check for the aqua sewing machine I sold and mailed to this sweet soul to add to her collection. Well the check was in a fair sized box that left me quite in a titter. Here is what was in the box with the check.

When I mailed the machine, I decided to mail it from Victoria while I was there to see if postage would be less than from Oregon. Not only was it one third the cost, I had an old address on there and the lovely Canadian postal system bothered to find her and send it on. After a year, my post office can’t find me and I only moved 3 miles but I’m not giving them a bad time because they brought me such lovely things.

From someone special

From someone special

I love snail mail and my postal workers. Without them I wouldn’t have all of these delights. I just wish international mail were not so expensive and difficult. Now to get my thank you card done.

Another coaster with pink typewriter.

Another coaster with pink typewriter.

Can you imagine life without the ability to send wonderful things to each other?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

How much can you cram into a short day and a half? Well, if I’d been younger and in better shape, probably a whole lot more than I did. Crossing borders is hard work.

Our next destination for the day.

Our next destination for the day.

We left Butchart Gardens early Saturday afternoon so we could drive 3-5 minutes down the road. Another place that I wanted my children to see was the Victoria Butterfly Garden. I have been a collector of anything butterfly related for many years. They represented freedom to me which has been my quest for most of my life. It’s also a part of my personality. I flit. From project to project, book to book, experience to experience. It’s like being in a bakery, tasting a little of everything and going back and tasting again. That’s what these butterflies did too.

Old banana peels and orange slices enticed these diners to sit a spell

Old banana peels and orange slices enticed these diners to sit a spell

An indoor tropical oasis that is climate controlled at 80% humidity and 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit). If it wasn’t so warm in there, I would have stayed for days. As it was, we spent almost two hours. It was a little harder to photograph as our models kept flitting around. Some were tiny, some were quite loud and vocal. The pink flamingos were the loudest edging out the parrots. The turtles, as silent as the butterflies. They didn’t have any snakes in this jungle but they did have an iguana. I didn’t get a photo because it was way up high and blended in fairly well to the background, but my son got a great shot. He has a better camera and vision.

Can you see the Iguana hiding in the green?

Can you see the Iguana hiding in the green?

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This was a day of surprises for me all the way through. I saw my very first dragon fly that morning at Butchart and had a parrot land on my arm for a long and meaningful conversation in the late afternoon.

Th
I don’t know what the rest of the day could have brought had we tested it further. My daughter found out butterflies like red toes. This one circled her feet for several minutes.

This butterfly thought those toes might be a flower

This butterfly thought those toes might be a flower

Departure day brought relief at the end of our hotel stay. Super 8 had the idea that a “climate controlled” room means being controlled by the climate. The AC unit was totally non functioning. I wouldn’t recommend that one as the fans were only slightly helpful. It was on the edge of the city and available. Very few options in our price range with short notice.

Thank goodness there was no heat wave as the AC unit did not work.

Thank goodness there was no heat wave as the AC unit did not work.

We had a lovely breakfast at a place called Cora’s, which was recommended by the nice young man at the post office on that fine Sunday morning. This is a place I can recommend. They had everything on the menu but the kitchen sink and it was all good and the place was exceptionally clean and welcoming. Then parking our car in line for the ferry, we traversed the town of Victoria. At least as far as I could hobble.

The Empress Hotel was as impressive as ever. My daughter found a nice t-shirt in the gift shop but we didn’t stay for tea. The view at Butchart has them beat as far as I’m concerned.

The Empress Hotel. She wasn't home. So daughter bought a t-shirt in the gift shop

The Empress Hotel. She wasn’t home. So daughter bought a t-shirt in the gift shop

The architecture and the feel of the city make you feel right at home. The one way streets, not so much. We found an outdoor artist market but left the wares behind. I am totally enthralled with that city and could have stayed many more days exploring. Everyone there was helpful, warm and welcoming. Next time, I’d like a week or more and see much more of Canada. I hear it’s pretty big and they have beautiful butterflies.

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Are you a flitter or a sitter? Do you go from one thing to the next or do stay with it till it’s time to move on?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

I’m a foreigner. That holds true in every country I go. Even the one I was born in. What is it about borders that make us want to cross them and explore? I’ve been doing just that my whole life.

Crossing large bodies of waters was a normal part of my life.

Crossing large bodies of waters was a normal part of my life.

My children, adults that they are, have not used their passports. My son was very young when we went to Taiwan via the military and I don’t think we needed them at that time. He didn’t remember crossing any borders. My poor daughter has been landlocked her whole life. Until now.

Life on the water. Wouldn't it be lovely?

Life on the water. Wouldn’t it be lovely?

Ferry captains were impressive in their skill.

Ferry captains were impressive in their skill.

We were brave and reckless. Driving the five hours to Port Angeles, Washington. After a wonderful brunch and a trip through their quilt store (yes, I had to look) and their wonderful bookstore (one or maybe two came home with us), my son drove the car onto the ferry and we rode the 90 minutes to another country. This dizzy lady did just fine. It took my daughter a bit to get her sea legs. A lot of distraction and good humor kept her even keeled and we made it safe and sound to Victoria, BC Canada. Now to be truthful, I’ve been there before without a car. We used public transport and that worked quite well. It was a LONG time ago.

They had beautiful stuff but I was very strong. Love this store

They had beautiful stuff but I was very strong. Love this store

So what do you do when you cross the border? You go see pretty flowers and look around the town. Just to warn you, I will have to break this very short visit into two posts. I took over 360 photos. This is a lady who rarely ever took photos. Since I don’t see well, I point, shoot and pray that they can be fixed. My kids took even more.

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First thing on our list was a real food breakfast. We found a lovely place across from our motel. They were so polite and kind that it made our first taste of Canada even better. Then we were off to find a post office. I decided to see if I could mail a package to a Canadian friend from Canada for a bit less than mailing it from the U.S. Cost cut, one third! Do you know they have post offices open Saturday’s and Sunday’s? I was delighted and surprised.

The ABC restaurant was a nice start of our day. I wanted to take this stove home.

The ABC restaurant was a nice start of our day. I wanted to take this stove home.

So is Butchart Gardens worth a second trip? I could use a third and fourth. My feet were protesting but my camera had its buzz on. I just couldn’t stop, until lunch that is. We (my daughter and I) had high tea in the conservatory. My son had a very nice looking hamburger. He’s a guy. The food tasted so beautiful in that room and the tea was something new for them. Lemon grass and ginger. Yum. I didn’t get a photo of the food. I was lost is a sea of bliss by then. The butterflies had nothing on me that day.

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After lunch we waddled over toward the Japanese gardens passing something so fragrant it took my breath away. I felt light headed and overcome with emotion. The tears started to flow and I just couldn’t contain them. I stood there a moment trying to get a grip when the dragonflies did a dance for me and landed softly right where I could get a clear shot. I have never really seen one before. They were always so far away I could not tell what they were. As we came back out of the Japanese Garden, the same thing happened again. The smell was like lilacs but they were not. The feeling, one of unmistakeable happiness.

Who knew they were so beautiful. I was enthralled.

Who knew they were so beautiful. I was enthralled.

I don't know yet what these are but the scent was wonderful.

I don’t know yet what these are but the scent was wonderful.

We finally had to sit a few moments before shopping the gift stores and caving in to happiness and beauty overload. And our day was not done yet. That was one border I would gladly cross again and again.

A great spot to sit a spell and reflect on the wonders of the morning.

A great spot to sit a spell and reflect on the wonders of the morning.

How about you? Do you cross borders?

Stay tuned for part two.

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

I had something else in mind for posting today but as I was going through my photos, this was the first to pop up. I think I’m being summoned.

That was his spot. Everything in his late life happened there.

That was his spot. Everything in his late life happened there.

My father has been gone 16 years now and Fathers’ Day was hard for us when he was alive. He wasn’t the warm cuddly kind of dad. He wasn’t “likable” to his children and we really didn’t get to know him. I learned much later in life that he was a voracious reader. So books became the thing to buy him. When I found out we were reading the same spiritual books, it finally gave us something to talk about. He was thinking about his end, I was working on my present.

My day always sat in that chair with a book or magazine in front of him. He wore only blue and mom had a hard time getting the clothes he wore to the washer. Now he showered every day, He just liked his clothes soft and lived in. They would be threadbare before she could sneak them away to toss. Because he’d worn a military uniform most of his working life, the blue shirts, pants and sweaters were his new uniform.

Sometimes warm and cuddly isn't what we need for life. We were well prepared.

Sometimes warm and cuddly isn’t what we need for life. We were well prepared.

Since I have no father living, my children have no father living and my son is not a father, what’s the point of even thinking about Fathers’ Day? I guess it’s to remember them and the gifts they gave us along the way. My dad always said the most dangerous thing in the world was a closed mind. I found that comment interesting coming from him.

My son said the thing he learned from his father was what kind of father he didn’t want to be and how much he wanted to handle frustrations in a better way. His dad thought it was his job to make the living and mine to do the rest. There was no balance. These dads didn’t know how to be daddies. I think there is a difference. There was no place for them to learn. They did their best as did we. Happy Father’s Day to all that are fathers.

He smiled a lot too. Can you see the smile? No, me either

He smiled a lot too. Can you see the smile? No, me either

My sister sent a text this morning to wish me a happy summer solstice. Now that my dad has had his say, I’ll go back to celebrating the solstice in my garden before they turn the oven back up later this week.

Do you find reasons to celebrate dads’ day?

“Fathers never have exactly the daughters they want because they invent a notion of them that the daughters have to conform to.”
Simone de Beauvoir, The Woman Destroyed

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of a Rhodi

When I moved into my house last year it was the end of June and I had a lot to do. My back yard was starting to bloom and overrun with weeds but I had no idea what anything was out there and not much time to find out. We had a garden in California, much different from here in the Pacific Northwest and very little grew at our home in the mountains of Arizona. Our seasons on the mountain were snow, wind, fire and rain.

Mine bloomed just before the visit to the gardens

Mine bloomed just before the visit to the gardens

Can you see the big fat bumble bee in this one. It boomed after my trip. Who knew they could be so pretty.

Can you see the big fat bumble bee in this one. It boomed after my trip. Who knew they could be so pretty.

There were 4 or 5 bushes that did not that had no appeal for me. Turns out they were rhododendrons and peonies and they must have bloomed before I moved in. This year they finally bloomed so I could see what they looked like. Just in time, at least for a couple of them, for my field trip to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens.

 

In all the years I have come up to visit my sister, who incidentally lived within a couple of miles of this place, I had not known it was there. Thank goodness for our wonderful Senior Center. It was fun this way as we had a tour guide with a lovely German accent. She was 82 and a volunteer at the garden. She walked that entire garden with us and there was a LOT of walking.

All the gardeners are volunteers as well. According to Wikipedia, so I don’t get my facts incorrect:

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens are botanical gardens located between Reed College and the Eastmoreland Golf Course in southeastern Portland in the U.S. state of Oregon. The gardens, at Southeast 28th Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard, cover 9.49 acres (3.84 ha), and are named for Crystal Springs Creek, which flows along its western side. Crystal Springs Gardens feature more than 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas, and other plants in a setting of small lakes, paved and unpaved paths, fountains, and small waterfalls.[1]

In addition to the manicured areas that make up most of the gardens, patches of less orderly shrubs, upland forest, marsh vegetation, and submerged logs attract wildlife, especially waterfowl, most prevalent in winter. The Rhododendron Society has counted 94 species in the garden, including grebes, herons, ducks, Canada geese, wigeons, gulls, thrushes, nuthatches, hummingbirds, and others.[2]

 

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In addition to the lovely walk through the gardens, we stopped for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. I had a nice salad and then we were sent to wander the streets of nearby Sellwood in search of antique shops. Me, I found the craft store instead. Oh dear.

One last view of the water for that peaceful feel. Come for another visit anytime.

One last view of the water for that peaceful feel. Come for another visit anytime.

Do you have Rhodri’s in your garden and what’s your favorite of the colors? Have you taken any fun field trips lately?

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.”
Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

I’m not talking about my son here. That boy is NOT lazy in any way, shape or form. He has worked long after I have melted into a puddle in the shower to ease my aching muscles. It’s the reason I have a hard time with summer. The outside work takes so much more muscle and energy than the inside work in the winter.

Quilting and sewing are easy in comparison to trying to replace lawn (if that’s what you call the close group of weeds). There was no way to grow a real lawn since there was no real dirt under it. Just thick oozing clay mud. All winter it was soggy and slippery as I did my careful squish, squish, squish dance to get to trash and recycling containers for weekly pickup. I layered cardboard in as many places as I had cardboard available from my move and anywhere I could find some used.

Looks kind of puny in there doesn't it? Half a yard was quick.

Looks kind of puny in there doesn’t it? Half a yard was quick.

It’s dried out a bit and that meant outside work must begin. First we rented a trailer after putting the hitch back on my car. Then we went to the landscape supply place and bought a half yard of river rock. It sure looked puny in that big trailer.

After we shoveled out the first load, back we went for two yards of bark dust. I had spread out some weed block and we shoveled even faster to get that out of the trailer. Then one more trip the next morning for a full yard of rock. Can you say ow? We (I) still have to spread all that wonderfulness. It goes a little at a time as the area is prepared. I also think there is a flaw in my plan as the entire property is slopping toward the house and rock around it. My brain hurts from trying to figure out a cheap fix.

Did you think I’ve just been running around on field trips and retreats? Well, I’ve done some of that and watched as my son put in two electrical plugs on the front porch where there were none. Now we can plug in Christmas lights and laptops to sit outside. He put up a flag holder out front and railing off the back porch so I don’t wobble off and started one up the terrace steps. Right now he is working on my car (something about steering linkage) and I pulled weeds, moved rock and spread more mulch. I have the easy work.

Tech Support being a mechanic aka Genius

Tech Support being a mechanic aka Genius

More work to do but at least something to hold onto.

More work to do but at least something to hold onto.

One post is in. Several more to go. The work never ends

One post is in. Several more to go. The work never ends

In time for Memorial day to fly his flag.

In time for Memorial day to fly his flag.

The easy work was only so easy. I was still trying to find a direct path from my shower to an available Lazy Boy. I must admit it was more of a waddle than a walk to find it. It did not disappoint.

Comfy spot at the end of the day in my reclining lazy boy

Comfy spot at the end of the day in my reclining lazy boy

Do you have a lazy boy that brings comfort at the end of a long day? How many summer projects do you have lined up?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

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