Thursday, April 22, 2010

Still on her feet in a state of grace

Ten years ago, I would never have dreamed that my mother would be turning 101 on Monday. Ever since she turned 84, the age my grandmother died, I've been preparing emotionally for my mother's death.
As she entered her 90s she began falling, and then the cellulitis in her feet created the decade-long struggle with lymphedema (which creates swelling and pain), and then the skin cancer surgeries, and then the lymphoma cancer, and subsequent surgeries and radiation, and then the broken coccyx which led her to declare, "I'm done," then the strokes and the migraines that sent her to ER hallucinating, and then more of the same. She developed bone spurs on the bottom of her right foot, as a result of walking wrong, which caused excruciating pain.
But the extraordinary thing about all of this, she stayed on her feet. If she had a stroke, she rehabilitated stronger than before. If she had cancer, she recovered, even when the oncologist had declared her terminal (a few weeks before Christmas five years ago).
Last summer her doctor sent her for tests to determine if she had vascular disease, and then declared her unfit for support hose, which could potentially restrict blood flow. The lymphedema got worse, she fell and broke her foot, and she was confused. We were planning a trip to Nova Scotia. I decided it was finally time to move her to assisted living, thinking this was the final step, which was a logical assumption, given her age of 100.
The assisted living facility nearly killed her, but mom, in spite of their best efforts, stayed on her feet.  When we returned from Nova Scotia we packed her up and moved her back to Orchard Park, the facility in which she has lived for 18 years. We moved her to the main floor, just down the hall from the dining room and the beauty shop to what I call the great-grandmother suite.
The managers and residents welcomed her home.
Since then she has attended memorials for other residents. Yesterday she had me read an obituary to her. The man lived at Orchard Park and used to sit at an adjacent table in the dining room. He was 90. She said, "I never dreamed he'd go before I did."
She was sad when her friend of 17 years, Helen, was moved away to Arizona. And then her favorite managers moved away.
But the strangest thing has happened. Mom's lymphedema was brought under control. Her vascular disease was declared "not all that bad," or words to that effect. The bone in her foot healed. And then, remarkably, a home health nurse who "just happened" to be a foot expert, did ultrasound on her bone spur and it disappeared.
Although she struggles to get up at times (we laugh when I give her a lift from behind)...she's still on her feet, and walking almost comfortably.
But besides all of that, the emotional struggle mom and I have been in for decades, has abated.
Her humor is in tact, and she seems more at peace than I've ever known her to be.
Stan and Annie arrive Friday to help us celebrate her birthday. Jared will come Sunday with his friend, Kiersten, to help celebrate mom's 101 years.
I'm not sure why we've been blessed with it, but we're in a state of grace.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bees Knees

I took this bee photo last spring. Love this because you can see the pollen on the bee's knees and the light reflecting on the water droplets. I love bees and feel happy when I see them each spring. On a quiet morning in spring, you can hear their low hum as they arrive to pollinate the flowers and trees.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Today I stood under the branches of our flowering plum tree and smelled the fragrance of the blossoms and listened to the bees swarming around my head ... not interested in me, of course, but in the nectar. It's so good to see the bees, knowing that in other places, they are dying.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Experimental Garden

Today we tilled the garden. Beautiful soil. Like mixing cake mix, our friend, Norm, said.
Norm and Sue are helping us in the garden this year. Well, the guys tilled, and Ben will set up irrigation, but us girls will do the work.
Sue was anxious to get some seeds in the ground, as was I, but I was more reticent given our unpredictable last freeze dates.
But what the heck.
We planted carrots, broccoli, leeks and some Mesclun. We'll see. If it all dies, we'll be out five bucks and a bit of water and time.
We planted peas March 27. They are sprouting underground (I dug one up) and onions, which are surviving our below freezing temps okay.
I should make some covers, and may do that for the rest of the stuff we put in.
The peach trees are faring well, and the buds remain viable.
We're all so anxious for a day above 50 after a warm March that was filled with so much promise.
I do hear Friday it's supposed to be near 70.
So maybe our seeds will get the boost they need.
And just maybe our last frost date will be May 1 this year instead  of May 15 or 30.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A worm runs through it

In 1978, I wrote an essay of sorts for a career exploration class. Yesterday, while cleaning out my files I discovered what I had written.
An excerpt toward the end:
"During the summers in Utah, I was "turned-on," ... I loved the change of seasons and after moving into a small one-bedroom house with a large area for a garden, I planted my first garden [in 1970]. I was particularly proud of the garden, read and studied a lot about organic gardening, and became known among my peers as an organic gardener. A few people would ask questions about how to do certain things. An enjoyable lesson for me was when I taught a friend how to use hand tools and plant her garden. I learned something about myself...that a college education and culture aren't necessarily the keys to 'education' or skills in which to better one's life. I still have a strong desire to return to college, however."
In a sense, little has changed. A common thread runs through my life. The values I held dear at that time still resonate with me today. Not only in the gardening, but in my love of writing. I also finally finished that long-coveted degree in 2004.
I still enjoy sharing my gardening knowledge with others, although in a valley full of master gardeners, and about 100,000 gardening blogs on the Internet, I'm a small potatoes (pun intended) gardener in the large world of organic gardening.
I feel blessed to have had that first little garden in Park City, Utah. I remember going into the garden one morning and discovering an entire row of spinach had been gobbled from under the surface. Gophers! I stuck a hose down the hold to drive them into the vacant lot next door. I don't remember any more trouble with them. I dealt with the enormous slugs with salt in rows around the garden.
We moved to Heber City that next year and we were in the midst of tilling a very large garden, when I realized my life was about to take a serious turn. I left my marriage, my new home (such as it was) of a year, and "lit" out, so to speak. I moved to Sun Valley, Idaho for a summer, and then for the next several years I traveled, and spent time at the Maharishi International University in 1975-1976. After going to France for a "TM teacher training course," that nearly drove me nuts, I went back to California in 1978. I worked at a nursery and then for a landscaper for awhile, before getting a job at the University of California at San Diego in the biology department.
While working at the U, I started a small garden in my backyard in a rented house in Del Mar, California. Gina Catena, her two-year-old daughter, Angelica, and Ted (?) were my roommates. I started clearing a small two-by-three foot spot by the back fence. Soon, others in the house took interest. Then the landlord tore down the fence so there was more room for the garden. I don't remember how well the garden fared, but it was fun seeing it come together.
In 1980, I returned to M.I.U., where I worked for a year. I met Jared's dad, Tom, and by 1982 I was married with a baby.
We lived in Iowa City for two and a half years, and I attempted another garden, which met with marginal success. After moving to California a few years later, Tom and I divorced and Jared and I "lit" out on our own. We moved into a "cottage," (code for run-down house a friend of Jared's once dubbed a "shack") overlooking the ocean. The ocean view was the great part, including an avocado orchard on the property, an orange tree, and a cherimoya tree, an unusual fruit my grandfather used to grow, as well as avocados. There was a large lawn. Jared and I dug up a spot (he was five, so I'm not sure how much he dug) and we planted peas together, and a few other vegis.
Gardening is a lot of work, so we didn't have another garden while we lived there. I was busy being a midwife-apprentice and midwife, and raising Jared. But the dream of having a large spot for a garden remained.
So when we saw our current property on Nighthawk Lane in Selah, Washington, I saw the fulfillment of a dream. An acre of land to steward with a 30 x 30 foot plot to grow food organically.
Our neighbors, Kal and Mary, helped us build a fence around the garden plot. That first year Mary and I planted a garden. But again, I was working, raising Jared, and after two seasons of hip-high weeds, we all gave up. It was a mess.
The land lay fallow until last year, when we had a remarkably abundant garden. Mary and the kids, who are now older, contributed to the work effort, and Ben laid irrigation, which helped enormously.
This year, my friend, Sue Hillstrom, is helping me in the garden, and Mary may help later. If not, she will still reap the benefits, as she has gone through a nearly complete remodel of her home due to a fire and then a car accident, which rendered her not fit for gardening duty just yet.
The weather remains cold. Who knows how the peas are doing, and the frigid night temperatures have certainly had an effect on the onions we planted. But looking forward to working in the garden fills me with anticipation, just as it did when I grew my first garden 35 years ago in Utah.

Friday, April 2, 2010

April 2 snow

Planted onions and peas last week, March 27. Early planting, but know of someone who planted peas in February. I'm not willing to take that chance. The peas will probably be fine, but not sure how the onions will fare.