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IMG_1243 - Version 2The sweet scent of milkweed was calling me as I wandered around at dawn, tea cup in hand, wearing a sweatshirt against the unseasonal chill in the air. I could see a few deer in the weeds, nursing their young in the lot next door and there was a conversation between two cardinals I overheard as I strolled out front toward nature’s incense.

I had been checking the milkweed each day, looking for eggs, hoping. I had noticed several holes in the leaves; a sign that something was eating the leaves, then I saw it!

I rushed back in for my camera;  monarchical paparazzi that I am.

DSCN8952There on a leaf was a Monarch caterpillar, munching and inching its way along a milkweed plant. I must have gone back to check on it five or six times yesterday, and repeatedly today. Under a leaf, up and down the stem, even half hidden in between the flowers of the plant, there was this very hungry caterpillar, marching his way on the host plant.

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A lone Monarch caterpillar sharing the gifts of a milkweed plant with bumblebees and ants is not going to alter the precarious plight of the Monarch butterfly, but, to me, this black and yellow striped insect brings the tiniest bit of hope that perhaps, just perhaps,  there will be a few more Monarchs this summer and that they will go forth and multiply.

Be sure to click on the photos for a better look.

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An occurrence

She emerged from the lush greens on our Saturday stroll in the Rotary Gardens.

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On Tuesday, Yeats appeared on my daily feed from The Writer’s Almanac . . .

Down By the Salley Gardens
by William Butler Yeats

Down by the salley gardens
my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens
with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy,
as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish,
with her would not agree.

In a field by the river
my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder
she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy,
as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish,
and now am full of tears.

Then Maura O’Connell showed up today.

Opening garden doors

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Ever since reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “A Secret Garden” as a child, I have been intrigued by garden doors, imagining myself as Mary Lennox, wondering what is beyond a locked door.

So it was upon entering the Rotary Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin that my imagination grew like Jack’s beanstalk and I squealed in girlish glee “oh, this is wonderful“. There I was, hopping around, opening and closing garden doors, peering into windows and otherwise embarrassing Tom who, after all these years, is used to my childish ways about these bookish gardening “things”.

There were doors opening on doors as groomsmen in gray – and senior citizens in greige -averted their eyes to the gleeful granny and her indulgent companion.

Isn’t it grand to discover something creative and open your imagination for a bit? Maybe it was because we had just spent several days with our darling grandchildren who love to pretend that images of Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy and Toto following a yellow brick road came to mind.

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Well, dear reader, when one door closes another opens, and so it did as something else caught my eye.

Can you see it? Click on the photo for a better look.

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Scattered about the gardens were many of these boxes. They reminded me of the Little Free Libraries and were painted in all manner of whimsy and creativity.

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A volunteer in the gardens told us that the boxes were made by a group of men. They were sold at a nominal cost to be painted and appointed however the artist saw fit. They will be raffled off (or was it auctioned?) and I, of course, imagine them filled with gardening books and secret doors.

What would you fill them with?

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Growing faster than weeds

IMG_1127I’m out and about today, restocking the pantry, washing clothes after a week away, garden club activities leading up to the  July 12 garden walk, weeding the garden here on the Cutoff, and on and on we go.

I want to show you the masses of bee balm – with bees on them – that opened whilst we were up North and give you a measure of our success with how tall the grasses and compass plant have stretched since we’ve been away. The weeds. Ah, the weeds. They are abundant this year. It is what it is and I’ll be like Scarlett and worry about them tomorrow. For now, I hope you don’t mind my sharing a few photos of the grands, who charmed and challenged us this past week, and are growing even faster than the weeds in our yard.

Joy supreme.

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To the end of the road

DSCN8774One of the many scenic visitors’ centers in Wisconsin is just outside of Black River Falls. In a rolling area of forests and outcroppings, this stop is clean and welcoming, with picnic tables, places to walk dogs, and well-maintained facilities. It also has a pleasant forested walk on a nicely paved trail with a gentle incline.

After motoring through a line of strong storms, followed by several hundred miles of strong, gusty winds, we needed a “pit stop” as we came upon the Black River Falls turnoff. Walking back to the car, we decided to take the walk in the woods; about a mile’s worth of steps.

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The forest floor, once a large stand of white birch, now a haven of burr oaks, was carpeted with ferns in their new green cloaks. I couldn’t help but think of the children’s book, “Where the Red Fern Grows”, as we stepped higher and higher up, much of the way along a wooden bridge,

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with an impressive view.

We walked back to our car and headed back to the interstate, our heads in the clouds, dreaming of family at the end of the road.

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On being defeated . . .

“To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers

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is a delectable form of defeat”

Beverley Nichols

Like water ’round a rock

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There is such a sadness floating around me swirling like water ’round a rock.

I fell asleep on Wednesday to the news of the horrid killings in Charleston and awoke on Thursday to the lingering sadness that prevails. Though my day was filled with work and purpose, I felt that proverbial weight of the world on my shoulders.

I sifted though a pile of envelopes; fliers, bills and such. Sitting in abeyance was a “note to self” to call a member of a board I sit on. I had not heard from Barb in some time, knew she was ailing. I had been experiencing a difficult time getting in touch with her. I put my note in a spot where I would see it, planning to call her when I returned home.

The best made plans do often go astray, for I returned home to a message that Barb had passed away. She will be missed.

The the sadness swirled some more as the news came to me in a phone call about one thing that led to an aside about something else; a long-time friend had passed away a week or so ago.

Milt was a unique person; a man who walked the walk he talked. He was an educator and a man with a servant’s heart; someone who truly practiced what he preached.

I first met Milt when he became the principal at the elementary school our daughters attended. When I met him, our Jennifer was in second grade. Katy was a toddler tagging along with Mom on a school related task. Milt, then the in-coming principal at Field School, introduced himself, shook my hand, and then got down on his knees to say hello to Katy. That was Milt; meeting everyone at their own level.

As time went on, we became friends and we started a book discussion group; the very same book group I am still in and sometimes mention here on the Cutoff. Milt and his wife, Rosalie, stopped participating a few years ago. Age related issues and life changes had deemed it time for them to move on. They were the most devoted of couples I have ever known. Most of the members of our book group are either retired teachers who taught with Milt or friends who are parents of children who were under his principalship. More than that, everyone in town seemed to know Milt, who winter-camped, had a prison ministry, was a staunch advocate of the rights of all and a good steward of the environment.

We’ve missed Milt – and Rosalie, who had successes in her own right. Rosalie was a writer and one of the first to publish a book about Alzheimer’s. “Journey with Grandpa” is a memoir of her father-in-law and of living and caring for someone with the disease. It became a loving  “how to” manual for many in a time when Alzheimer’s was just beginning to be recognized and talked about.

Milt’s story wraps around another part of my life which is part of my sorrowful mood right now. In a discussion some years ago, he mentioned the first school he was principal at and of  the young Greek Orthodox priest who tended his fledging flock with services in the school’s gym, with Sunday school in the classrooms. We had a good chat as I said that I was actually one of the children attending Sunday School and Greek language school there.

Not long after that, I attended a anniversary liturgy at the Greek Orthodox church, Holy Apostles, which had eventually moved to its permanent location, building a permanent church, where the very same priest Milt remembered, Father Bill, still tended his flock. I had a few moments to talk to him and mentioned my friend, Milt, the principal of Nixon school, which he seemed to delighted to hear about.  Father Bill passed away a little more than a month ago.

So it goes, this passage of time, senseless acts that have no rhyme or reason and a floating sadness like water ’round a rock.

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