Monday, August 25, 2008

Nurture, Nature, and Hoping for the Best

We all know that children are like gardens; each child is as different as a lilac bush and a tomato plant, but they all require certain care in order to grow to their full, unique potential. And although in most cases, we will reap what we sow, we also have to figure in those months of drought, or those seasons of locusts that threaten to destroy what we've carefully tendered for so long. In the case of teens however, the season of drought could be a dehydration episode from a week-long losing streak at beer pong; and we all know the "locusts," those friends/boyfriends/girlfriends that seem to want nothing more than to take our precious flowers and eat them alive. But somehow, we manage to get through it. Finally, it's time for the harvest; the bountiful cornucopia of knowledge, maturity, confidence, and independence.

Sunday, we dropped my daughter Kayla off at college. Well, "drop off" seems a bit minimal. It was more like we moved her and every ounce of her belongings in, and all that was missing was the chihuaha. My Elle Woods wanna-be seemed as though she was completely taking over her double-dorm room (oh, excuse's not a "dorm", it's a "student residential hall" or some nonsense like that), and I feared that Kayla's very sweet roommate and her family might think my daughter a tad high-maintenance. I personally never viewed her as such until that day. Sadly, most of what she brought were items that both her stepmother and I felt that we could not live without...I could pretty much guarantee that we could have made it up in one car instead of two if we had just stayed out of the packing end of it. But alas, there is a bridge and a toll between Kayla and the rest of us, and I guess we just wanted to make sure we could avoid paying $5.00 each way just to bring her a lint roller or some triple antibiotic. She's pretty much all set.

So here I am, wondering where on earth the last eighteen years of my life went, and reflecting on whether or not I nurtured her as well as I could have, should have. The subject is really moot. I think we all do the best we can at a job that has no formal training and doesn't even come with a manual. We wing it, and we hope for the best. And I might say that right now, I'm happy with the way Kayla blossomed. I look forward to seeing her in full bloom someday, and she has many wonderful seasons ahead of her.

Now, onto my real garden of soil, weeds, and hopeful plantings. The strawberries are coming along as expected...I did get four or five tiny, sweet fruits back in June, and I think that's appropriate for a first planting. I hear that next year, they'll be taking over my yard. The grapes did not fare so well; as a matter of fact, they were looking rather anemic this morning. I decided to feed them with some makeshift plant food: egg shells, lettuce bottoms, lemon skins. I have no idea what I'm doing, but it sort of resembled compost in its early stages. I'm hoping the vine thinks it's yummy.

But my fig tree...aahhh, this is the trophy of my yard. I don't know why I plant
ed it...something to do with my late grandfather growing figs most of his life, and no one carrying on the tradition (the same goes for the grapes...I planted them with the hopes of resurrecting his tradition of growing his own fruit and making his own wine. Why this skill was never passed down through the generations is beyond me). I was never particularly close to my grandfather--he passed away at the ripe, old age of 92 when I was a teen--but I'm really starting to appreciate how he lived his life. He grew his own food, and he consumed it. Of course, he also started each day with a supposed concoction of whiskey, raw eggs, and sugar. But hey, he was still standing on his own two feet until he died...

I digress. Back to my figs.

As I've mentioned, I wasn't sure if I'd like figs, but after reading about their nutritional value, I decided I was going to have to eat them whether they tasted
good or not (for example, figs contain the highest overall mineral content of all fruits: a quarter-cup serving provides 244 mg of potassium, 53 mg of calcium, and 1.2 mg of iron). Although the newly-planted tree only produced about 15 fruits this year, next year we should be plenty prepared to can, preserve, and just plain eat these tasty, nutritious little dumplings. I'm feeling very hopeful, and I feel like I really accomplished something this summer. Lots of things, actually.

Now, if only I could figure out the task of pruning and protecting this tree (which I have to do with items such as burlap, I hear). But that's another story f
or another day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Fresh, New Start

Over the last few months, my appearances on Blogger have been short, not always sweet, and very sporadic, to say the least. When I started dabbling in the Wonderful World of Blogging, this was not my intention. I vowed to create and post an article at least once a week; looking back, I did briefly accomplish this. However, general interest topics were becoming more and more elusive to me, and all this writing about myself started to seem a wee bit self-centered and--dare I say it?--narcissistic (those of you who know me, know this is one of my favorite words to use to describe many people here in my neck of the woods). It was all about me, me, me...or rather, my problems, my problems, my problems.

At one point in the not-so-distant-past, I was feeling very depressed and did not want to bring my relatively upbeat blog down into the abyss of I simply chose not to write at all. I "closed up" my blog with a farewell that included expressing my hopes to rekindle some of my artistic ability and turn it into (hopefully) something that might lead me towards a real career doing what I love. That never materialized, and the people closest to me noticed. Some of their attitudes may have even bordered on pity. It was quite embarrassing.

In time, however, I realized that the only way for me to get back on track with my life was to make some drastic changes to it...some of which were not at all easy or comfortable. But the most vital alteration to my day-to-day existence was my decision to quit my job after three fairly secure, routine years. The position had become one of stress and frustration, all of which I was taking out on my family and even my friends. Something had to give, and it had to give at once.

My relationships with the people surrounding me are precious; I have taken the time to feed these relationships, care for and nurture them, and I have been rewarded with a bounty of love and trust as a result. I took the time to sow this love and trust carefully and abundantly; unfortunately, I found that I also had to take time to do some pruning. I had to weed out anyone or anything that I felt was harmful and destructive, and would cause strangulation of what I considered to be strong roots.

What I reaped has been priceless. The quantity of relationships I once had may not be there, but the quality of the ones that have remained will carry me into my old age. With my resignation, the concern over my relationships was taken care of. One down, a few more to go.

As for my art, I have something in the works that should be ready for copyright in the next two weeks. I believe in my project with my whole heart, and have taken steps to market it internationally via the world-wide web.

Two down. Are there more?

Yes, there is this one thing. I still love to write. I still love to blog. So with the advent of my return, I have decided to try to take the blog in a different sort of direction (for me, anyway). Instead of whining about family relationships, delving into world issues, and being overly-concerned with my financial future, I have decided to journal my attempt at getting back to the root (pun intended) of what I really love: nature, growth, and simplicity. I have decided, along with my husband, that the time has come to make all those "dreams" I have written about a reality. Just because I can't have my country home right this minute, doesn't mean I can't start to learn how to do everything I want to once I do live there. Although there are many things we long to acheive, one of them is trying to learn how to self-sustain. And there ain't no reason on earth I can't start practicing right here on Long Island!

This spring, I planted several Italian Essentials, as I like to call them: tomatoes, basil, parsley, oregano, grapes, and a fig tree. This is my start. This is my pre-school, or perhaps even my kinder-"garden." By the time we own that country home, we'll practically have master's degrees on everything important, like how to store vegetables and fruits for winter use, to that most crucial of subjects, Wine-Making 101 (admittedly, I doubt I can self-sustain without a nice red). Today I even started to make my own compost and joined an international home-gardening community web site.

Dang it, this time I'm determined to just do it. And I really think I will.

Many thanks to my inspiration for this post, Simply Me. Her PA garden (not to mention her pure, easy, country hospitality) makes me long to be a better person, let alone a better gardener. I want to eat and share home-grown salad every day, not just on weekend getaways!