Do you ever hear a song that rings true to your life experience and find that the lyrics and rhythmic score keep playing in your consciousness? Recently I discovered The Garden Song by Maine songwriter David Mallet. It’s a catchy older folk classic, recorded by dozens of musicians including Pete Seeger and John Denver and the Muppets. His music kept playing in my head so much I found the sheet music to practice on piano and ukulele. Words such as “Inch by Inch and row by row, I’m going to make this garden grow. Someone bless these seeds I sow”….and “Plant your rows straight and long; temper them with prayer and song. Mother Earth can make you strong if you give her love and care.” Click here to listen.
I think it resonated deeply, partly because of its expressed gratitude to our Creator during the harvest season. I love the miracle of seeds becoming edible food.
But also because of reading this month about an injured Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Dissly. He credited the success of his year-long rehab recovery from injuries by diligently following the principles of consistent daily efforts in Jeff
Olson’s book The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success.
Somewhat like “inch by inch, row by row,” Olson emphasizes “it’s the little things done faithfully day by day that count.” Whether establishing healthy habits, kind actions in relationships, money management, whatever, as Olson says, “They’reeasy to do, but just as easy not to do.” His ideas caused me to rethink what habits do I want to keep faithfully, and what needs to go?
An Unexpected Benefit in Covid Time
For some, the lack of external distractions during this pandemic, especially if not juggling jobs and children’s education, offers an opportunity to pay more attention to the little things in life that make a big difference. Both positive and negative.
For me, this included attention to daily media consumption since America’s 24/7 unbalanced news often creates such sorrow and anxiety for our world. For the past three weeks I’ve begun a Saturday Sabbath….avoiding all forms of newsoutlets, whether television, on-line apps or newspapers. I’ll let you know how this goes, and if you try it, please let me know!
Are there daily or weekly practices you might find beneficial to establish during our pandemic?
One very positive practice I want to continue includes reading poets, such as Irish Celtic writer John O’Donohue’s poignant writings. During Spokane’s mid-September days, smoke from Northwest forest fires darkened our skies and created highly hazardous air. Already feeling confinement to avoid Covid 19’s unseen airborne virus, when the Air Quality Index hovered near 500 this kept citizens inside to avoid dangerous fine particulate pollution. Part of a poem within To Bless the Space Between Us seemed fitting in easing the moment and the months ahead.
This is the time to be slow, Lie low to the wall Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let The wire brush of doubt Scrape from your heart All sense of yourself And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous, Time will come good; And you will find your feet Again on fresh pastures of promise, Where the air will be kind And blushed with beginning.
The lines I most value are
“If you remain generous, Time will come good.”
Generous actions, both large and small,
from family, friends, writers and
artists gave moments of joy to September
After our daughter Susan heard we were traveling to the San Juan Islands, she recommended "The Girl Who Wrote in Silk,” a historical novel loved by her Boston book group. Inspired by true events, the author creates the story of Mei Lien, a Seattle Chinese girl whose family faced destruction by a racist mob that forcibly expelled Chinese immigrants from Seattle on February
7, 1886. Stitch by stitch, she vows to keep her family’s story alive through embroidering vivid pictures on a silk garment.
Estes interweaves this with a contemporary story on Orcas Island. Another young woman discovers a sleeve of this mysterious silk garment while remodeling her aunt’s estate into a boutique hotel. As the mystery unfolds, readers gain insights into the symbolic truth of how the smallest of items can hold centuries of secrets. Couldn’t put it down!
Kitchens and Gardens:
Gestures of Love and Friendship
San Pasqual, the Spanish kitchen saint, on a tintype in our kitchen
Our kitchens are often the center of small actions that create great pleasures. It’s one place where Mother Teresa’s words, “We can do no great things—only small things with great love” often feels manifest every day by the millions of cooks around the world. Hospitality shared with friends and family can ease the heart or even make someone’s day.
When I think of acts of kindness, it’s been our sheer fortune to have a wonderful Seattle friend Randi Campbell Baldwin for over 45 years. She is the mistress of small gestures with meals and flowers that make guests feel loved. Throughout her home are always small bouquets cut from their exuberant gardens. She recently introduced me to the Autumn Sun Rudbeckia Nitida “Herbstonne.” A sunny yellow fall-blooming plant with an unusual green center cone, it grows 5-6 feet tall in a burst of autumn glory. Fortunately, I found one at a nursery and added it to our gardens.
On a recent visit, she set up two separate tables over six feet apart in an outdoor patio and used exceptional Covid protections in light of my vulnerabilities. After months of hibernation, such a connection and conversation felt soul renewing. Enjoy her mini Olive Puff recipe that she served with pansies on a blue glass plate. So Randi! Lucky us!
Randi’s Olive Puffs
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese; grated
3 TBS soft butter
dash of S&P and cayenne
½ cup sifted flour
24 small green olives
Mix cheese, butter, flour and seasoning in food processor until ball forms. Divide into 24 equal pieces. Place an olive in the center and roll into a ball. Cook at 400- 10-13 minutes. Absolutely addictive!
Harvest time on our land offered an abundance of tomatoes, apples, plums, aronia berries, pears, blueberries, beans, cucumbers, herbs, and yes, zucchini! Favorite cooking has included fresh gazpacho, French Apple Rum cake, and the New York TimesHeirloom Tomato Tart. What are your summer favorites?
Piece and Love Puzzles
Looking for vibrant contemporary art, rather than nostalgia, in puzzles? I discovered Eeboo.com, anonline site that uses buoyant illustrations by international women artists for their Piece and Love puzzles. Their designs reflect the woman founder’s values of community, sustainability, and diversity of people, animals, plants, and sea life. The hardest part is choosing among dozens of colorful illustrations using vegetable inks, and 90% recycled materials. Definitely worth exploring!
Celebrations in Covid Time
I sure benefited from my husband Jim’s embracing of poet Theodore Roethke’s famous line, “What I love is near at hand.” Undeterred by Covid’s limitations, for weeks ahead he worked virtually in a myriad of small ways to make my 80th birthday memorable. He invited family, friends, and neighbors throughout the nation to share stories on video or in cards, set up family zoom calls, ordered an exquisite ikebana flower arrangement, plus invited one couple for a socially distant salmon dinner that HE cooked, (rare for company). Best birthday ever!
The next few weeks in our nation will be difficult for all as news sources amplify the litany of hostilities between us. We must keep faith in the power of small but significant positive gestures needed from citizens: to vote, to wear a mask, to practice social distance, to offer kind gestures to others. Available tools include our kitchens, our note cards, our phones, and our generosity in encounters at work or in the community. We rarely know the hidden burdens people carry. Plus we need to offer a similar generosity to ourselves, consciously finding ways to nurture our inner spirits.
Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French scientist and Catholic theologian also lived in very challenging times in 17th century France. His guidance?
May you find images of beauty to carry in your heart in the weeks ahead!
Thinking of you,
Small pastries from European bakeries:
What we most miss in international travel!
P.S. Please always feel free to share my newsletter through email or Facebook. Thanks! And don't forget to listen to The Garden Song! (You can click the title and it will take you right to it!)