Saturday, October 29, 2016

Magnolia Seeds

In an earlier post, I wrote about my Magnolia Inspirations with the bloom that has a certain southern air to it that can't be imitated, only appreciated.

I'm more inspired now since the magnolia tree in my front yard began producing seeds. Either I didn't notice in years past, or my tree has finally matured enough to sire offspring.
Perhaps in other years the squirrels found the seeds before I did. Or perhaps I just didn't look to appreciate what my yard had to offer.

First comes the white blossom, next a drab, nondescript pod, and finally the fire engine red seeds, bright with a beauty all their own. Soak them in water overnight, suggests the directions on the home and garden site. Following that, plant them in damp sandy soil, place them in the back of the refrigerator, and wait three months or longer.

My daughter who lives in New Mexico took several seeds home with her after this last visit, which just happened to coincide with the first ever, maybe, bursting forth of the magnolia seeds on my tree. Her plan is to follow the instructions and attempt to colonize magnolias at her home in Taos, New Mexico, probably an impossible dream due to different climates, but worth a try as far as she is concerned. No matter how much she nurtures this seed, waters it, and protects it from the elements, the plant might not survive in unfriendly conditions. Yet she forges on. I like her spirit.

This particular "mother tree" from which she is taking seeds was a volunteer. It sprang up next to our basement door where we watched it grow from a weed looking oddity to a three foot "we've got to do something with this" beginnings of a tree. The nearest magnolia to it was behind the house across the street, but who knows? We have no idea how it ended up there, if the wind brought it to that spot or if a squirrel dug a hole to hide its seed for future reference and then forgot all about it. We just know it wasn't planned. We transplanted it and left it to its own devices. Flourish, it did.

Sometimes life gives us tall, beautiful trees just because it can!

Catch of the day,


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Last Okra Bloom of Summer

I don't have to read the weather forecast or check online. The wind outside announces fall has finally caught up to western North Carolina. Sad day, my husband said this morning as he looked longingly at the stack of shorts he was stowing in the back of the closet.

The leaves are still green on the trees in my yard. Green, I repeat, and the calendar says today is well past the Ides of October. Those few leaves that obeyed nature and started to change are being stripped from their branches today, going directly from green to brown - and then to the ground.

In all this I did find one plant hanging in there, daring winter to come, defying the looming frost. In our garden I found one last okra bloom.

There it is. The last okra bloom of summer. Okay, so it's not as well know or poetically appealing as the last rose of summer, but I go with what I see.

That okra plant is still alive and kicking it! Nearby the bloom, there are tiny okra pods developing just in time for me to add to my vegetable soup or to my western North Carolina version of gumbo.

Although this close-up shot makes them look like gourds, they are only two inches tall at best. Best means almost ready to harvest, before the green outside hardens so much it can't be sliced for cooking, and while the slimy juice from the inside still oozes to thicken the soup.

Fortitude is the word I'm thinking of right now as I see these tall plants swaying in the fall winds. Never give up. Hang in there until your purpose is fulfilled.

I've taken a little liberty here and substituted the okra concept for rose in the poem that I studied all those years ago, with apologies to poet Thomas Moore and my English Lit teacher, and thanks to  here's the first stanza reinvented:

The Last Okra Bloom of Summer

’TIS the last okra bloom of summer
  Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
  Are cooked and gone;
No bloom of her kindred,       
  Nor okra pod is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
  To give sigh for sigh.

Its theme is a little on the depressing side, but then again, so is the fall of the year when brilliant colors mask the impending winter darkness ahead. Since my teachers "encouraged" us to see ourselves or the world around us in everything we read, today I'm viewing this poem anew from a different perspective, from rose to okra, from teenage, to senior. When I was sixteen I did not understand it as I do now in the autumn (not even close to the winter, I want to insert) of my life. Like the okra bloom, I had to mature a bit to turn into the fruit that my life was meant to be. Like the okra bloom, I will fade away, but I choose to be like this one, blooming til the last possible second.

But wait!

Unlike the okra bloom, I will come back next spring, rested from the winter and ready to bloom again. Take that Thomas Moore!

Catch of the day,


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Memorizing Scripture

When I was in eighth grade, my teacher, Mr. Hampton (loved him) assigned a Psalm a week for us to memorize. This was on the cusp of the change in public school education, back before we realized the world was diverse, before prayer was removed, and before being politically correct outranked learning fine literature from the Bible.

Oh, we grumbled. Mainly because this was in addition to the verses we were required to memorize for our weekly Sunday School Classes and the once in a life time confirmation classes.

When would we ever use this?

I hear that cry now from Algebra I students (and parents) who don't realize the lessons learned in basic Algebra are so embedded in daily life that no one realizes they are there. Same as in learning phonics. All those basic ABC's and vowel rules and syllabication make reading new words possible, just ask those friends of mine who attended schools those years when phonics was tossed aside. To be without a skill makes life a degree more difficult.

I now have an answer to the "When would we ever use this?" complaint about memorizing scripture.


Just like Algebra. Just like phonics.

The soul also needs basics to call upon. In times of stress, life becomes bearable when a bit of scripture floats up from the depths of the brain to bring comfort and reassurance. Like in these coaster tiles a friend gifted me this week.

My favorite, Joshua 1:9 The Lord Your God is with you.

I'm about through with my cancer radiation treatments, two more to go (Yipppeeee!) and I can see the light at the end of the cancer free tunnel. It's not been an easy or smooth journey, let me assure you. But it has been made more bearable by support from my friends, and a few strangers too. Many of the cards they sent had scriptures on them and after a while I noticed the wide variety of verses that spoke to me. So I copied them and held to them and remembered some of them from my eighth grade teacher. Wow, just wow. I wish he were still alive for me to share my enlightenment.

Here, from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, a list of scriptures I found on the cards sent to me this summer:
  • Psalm 5:3 In the morning O Lord, you hear my voice. In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
  • Psalm 62:1 My soul finds rest in God alone. My salvation comes from him.
  • Psalm 91: 1,2 He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will abide in the shadow of the almighty. I will say to the Lord, "my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust."
  • Psalm 37:7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
  • Psalm 50:15 Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me.
  • Psalm 145:18-19 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

There were more scriptures from places throughout the Bible, many that I had also memorized as a child. When I read them in the cards, they rose from the recesses of my brain. Perhaps they had been engraved on my heart by those dear Sunday School teachers who put up with my shenanigans and wondered after an hour with me in a closed room, if I even learned anything. I did.

One thing about the battle between life and cancer, the warrior needs support. That, I found, in my husband, my family, my friends, and my scriptures. Whew.

Catch of the day,