Sunday, August 7, 2022

Handz N Dyrt Chronicles||Golden Hour Moments

The day is at its newest in its first daylight hour.  

I am unable to sleep past 4:30 AM. I am awake with my first swig of cool water from the bottle on the nightstand and on my feet, my legs shaking off the stiffness that comes with age. 

After the necessary ablutions, the next couple of hours are all routine; a hot cup of tea, a morning stretch, prayer and meditation. By the time I am done, the light of a new day creeps through the tops of the trees I view through my windows. It is my cue to go out to the garden.

My morning trip outside is more unstructured; sometimes it begins with a thorough watering of the raised beds and flower boxes, other times it is a walk-through inspection, and still other times I carry out a basket of freshly washed laundry to hang to dry before the heat of the day becomes too intense. Summers are for clothes hung on a line, left to rise and fall in the warm breeze.  

The world is just starting to wake; intermittent traffic sounds of a few cars whooshing by the neighborhood begin and the roar of a trash truck making its way up the block, yet I can still hear my own breath, the echoes of my own thoughts. There is not enough noise in this moment to drown out the peace and quiet that is big and new, and sadly, fleeting. 

The usual visitors always stop by to say "Good Morning". First, there is Fella, an American Shorthair who is dressed in his gruffy tuxedo coat. He sometimes sleeps in my strawberry bed, and scampers away at the first sign of me. Next, there is Skippy, who loves to hang out in the tree above the hammock. I prepare small cuts of fruit and vegetables for him so that he is able to easily find food that is safe and healthy for him to eat, and he grabs pieces to carry into the tree to enjoy. I am sometimes greeted by the Great Dane who looks over the fence and barks at me. He isn't a vicious dog. Just lonely and needing affection. 

As I stroll about the landscape, I admire the blooming flowers and the colorful little fairy homes tucked away in corners of the yard. Staring at the colorful little dwellings makes me imagine who might live in such a house; a tooth fairy who is also a dentist, the wise librarian who manages books on building bridges, herding grasshoppers or legends of giants who make the rain come and go, or the shopkeeper who runs the general store...there is a whole world of fantasy hiding in the bushes of my garden. 

Taking tea in the greenhouse is the best way to bring my Golden Hour rituals to a close. A hot cuppa, steeping a favorite brew of ginger turmeric or lemon hibiscus helps to balance my system as I sip and listen to the early morning jazz show on the speaker tucked away on the shelf. The volume is low enough for my ears only, the music a perfect backdrop for the rising sun, painting everything in warm, deep ambers and oranges. Light dapples through the windows, creating shadows through the leaves of the seedlings rising from the starter trays. I mark dates in my gardening journal for when to transplant these newcomers into the raised beds, the steam from my cup ascending in winding curls into the air. 

Light becomes morning that will soon turn into day, the temperature no longer cool. It is time to move on with my day. 

Like an unopened package of a thing most anticipated, most special, the Golden Hour morning is the moment when the seal has just been broken, the contents within unspoiled. You are the only one to witness the unfolding of all of its beauty; the new songs of the birds, the smell of breakfasts being prepared, and the coolness of the freshly watered grass beneath your feet, all while the deep, rich yellow light bathes the scene before your eyes. It is a blessing to witness a new day, fresh with hope and promise of great possibilities that are within reach. We can be the authors of our own story for the next 24 hours. 

Have you ever awaken to welcome the new day during the Golden Hour? What is your early morning routine?


Thursday, July 14, 2022

Handz N Dyrt Chronicles: Musings of a Suburban Gardener || Seed Collecting

Show me your seed and I will show you your harvest. - Matshona Dhilwayo

All Things from a Seed

One day, I had the privilege of personally speaking with "artivist" Ron Finley, urban gardener and community agent for change who is leading the movement for sustainable neighborhood gardening practices.  And he said one thing: "A seed contains infinity." I have come to this conclusion many times myself, and have thought about how one tiny structure contains the genetic material to create a living organism, in a continual repeating cycle that in turn, creates endlessly. 

As the seasons come and go, my observations of the many changes that occur within my garden have been close; in some cases, I have jotted down detailed notes and have taken pictures of each stage of onions, carrots, collards, cilantro, and poppies that have been allowed to go to seed. 

Sorting onion seeds

First, the most obvious reason is to collect seeds to sow for upcoming growing seasons. The second is to simply appreciate the cycle that all living things go through; birth, life, reproduction and death. The life cycle repeats itself in every corner of my garden, and I have learned to embrace the beauty of each phase. 

My collards. 

As the summer ended last year, I began to sow collards and cilantro, along with other seeds, in starter trays in my greenhouse. The greenhouse has proved to be a valuable asset to my gardening because seasons can be extended by providing optimal temperature  conditions for sowing seeds that will grow into seedlings for planting. It is not recommended that plants like cilantro and collards are sown directly into the ground; temperatures in zone 8b are very hot well past the end of the summer. Planting leafy greens in such extreme conditions will cause them to bolt, resulting in poor growth and no leaves. Cilantro is particularly temperamental, flourishing in cool, shaded areas. Both plants are best served by starting with seeds in trays within the controlled environment of the greenhouse, where there is cool shade and no strong wind. 

Cilantro flowers.

In the fall I got a lot of greens, and even a sufficient amount of cilantro that we used for tacos and Indian dishes that I love to make. When the plants went to flower, both produced the loveliest of flowers. The collards, with their bright yellow blossoms attracted the pollinators early in the season long enough that they stayed to visit the other flowers in the garden such as the lavender, coneflowers and purple sage. The cilantro's lacy, delicate blooms were perfect for rounding out handpicked bouquets for the kitchen table. Eventually, flowers turned to seed pods which when finally dried, were picked and patiently sorted and stored to be started for this year's crops. 

Cilantro seeds are actually the spice known as coriander. Did you know that? I didn't!

The sorting of seeds takes a tremendous amount of patience, and should probably not be endeavored if your anxiety is at a high or if you have other pressing matters to attend to. Or maybe it may be just the thing to help one to focus on the present and quietly engage in repetitive work. It was both for me. Collecting collard seeds requires that you open each pod and collect each seed into a small envelope or container. Cilantro seeds (known as coriander) are easier, only calling for using small scissors to cut the tiny buds from the flower once dried. I used small sauce cups like my friend, Marina did when she gave me my seeds for the first time, then stored them in the greenhouse in a tea tin. It will be time to get started with sowing in only a few more days. 

Sorting seeds for planting. 

From the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible to the practice of the teaching profession to the role of parenting, we can see the parallels of the seed in our daily lives. A childhood friend of mine recently lost her mother. As most of us have experienced that painful time of loss and grief, we also are lovingly reminded of the impact our mothers make and how as we grow, they not only plant seeds in our lives, but in the lives of our friends. I remember her mom, along with others who have been a part of my life journey and the happy seeds of memories they have helped to create for me that I constantly am able to reap from as an adult. These seeds planted in my life have yielded positive and abundant fruit. 

Within that miniature, perfect structure, there is the promise of growth, there is potential for big things, powerful things. There is hope. 

As a pot of carrots grew in the garden, one of them was left to go to seed. I wanted this process to take place with me as an active witness to the cycle I began last summer, with no expectations that any carrots would grow. And what I got was more than I ever imagined: A bunch of brilliant, orange carrots, ready to be pulled for stir frys, stews and even smoothies. Sweet, crunchy jewels; buried treasure in the rich backyard soil. By July, the flowers came, and with the flowers, a plethora of tiny seeds to carefully harvest and store in an envelope. 

Now, the cycle is on its return, and the flowering has begun. 

When we plant seeds in belief and hope, and rest in faith, they take root and grow into good things. It just takes time. What results are blessings beyond our expectations with infinite possibilities. Let's plant seeds of love, kindness, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness in our lives and the lives of others and wait together for a harvest of happiness. 

What seeds have you planted in your garden, literally or metaphorically? Leave your comment below!


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