Poinsettia Miracles

flower-1829706_1920 pointsettia

Starring the close of each year and darkest, darkest night, the Poinsettia’s striking winter appearance hails worldwide wishes of generosity and good cheer.

A Plant of Many Miracles…

Love

Rooted around miracles and the power of love, Mexican legend paints a heartwarming story around the Poinsettia.  While details vary, it’s essentially about a meager child having nothing to offer the baby Jesus except some roadside weeds. Once placed on the Christmas Eve altar, however, they miraculously transformed into brilliant red and green flowers.  Can you imagine witnessing the unfolding of such beauty, like the ugly duckling turned swan, or springtime buds bursting into bloom?  You know, it’s how your heart feels when overflowing with love.  How you feel when giving (or receiving) from the heart.

Abundance

Exemplifying the giving season, Poinsettias achieved stardom once sold under the botanical name Euphorbia Pulcherrima.  Nearly 70 million plants now sell from Thanksgiving to Christmas, generating $250 million in sales.

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Diversity and Individuality

The Poinsettia garners its name for world traveler, botanist and diplomat, Joel Roberts Poinsett. He introduced the plant to the U.S. in the early 1800s after falling in love with it near Taxco Mexico.

Today, more than 100 varieties of Poinsettias range from burgundy to red, salmon to apricot, yellow to cream and white, and solid to marbled, not to mention the dyed blue and purple ones or those speckled with glitter.

 

The United States commemorates December 12th, the date of Poinsett’s death, as National Poinsettia Day.

Care

As much as I love gardening, and can rarely bear discarding any broken plant stems  (several cuttings are rooting on my windowsill now), I admit I never gave Poinsettia’s their proper care.  Sure, I didn’t toss them  after the holidays when their bracts (often called flowers) fell, and a few hung around awhile as green house plants, but I didn’t keep them in total darkness so they would turn red for the holidays next year — a process Certified Nursery Consultant, Rick LaVasseur calls photoperiodism.  A process I call a miracle if I remember to do it.

poinsettia-1841877_1280 white speckled

Spirituality

Also known as the Christmas Eve Flower or Flowers of the Holy Night, some Christians symbolize the plant’s shape as the Star of Bethlehem which guided the Wise Men to Jesus, and the red color as the blood of Christ.

The meaning of the Pointsettia reflects standard Christmas and New Year wishes for Joy, Love and Hope – my universal wish for the coming year.

God gave me a memory so that I may have roses in December.  But, I have the Poinsettia too.

pointsettia

 

Some (not so) Squirrelly Advice for Pleasant Holidays

Mixed Nuts
What do you think about when you think about squirrels?  Ravaged bird feeders?  Acrobatic acts?  Rabies?  The park?  Nuts?  Well, yes, nuts.  That also comes to mind when I think about the December holidays.

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Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Not just the type of nuts we eat — like roasted chestnuts, walnuts on that sumptuous apple pie, or honey coated peanuts in the snack dish, but nuts as in gathering frantically like a squirrel, and nuts as in foolishly excessive holiday behaviors.   It’s a bountiful season for sure, but will it fill us up or leave us feeling exhausted, robbed and empty?

Filling Up More than Stockings
Each of us can choose to step back and celebrate in simpler, more meaningful ways.  You can create a holiday celebration of choice and one that enriches, rather than depletes, you or loved ones — physically, emotionally, and financially.  Take time to think about what Christmas really means to you.

  • Is it that important to try and create the perfect Christmas of yesterday, or a happier one now?  If so, dig deeper and ask yourself why.
  • Will taking on additional activities amidst an already crammed schedule affect your ability to give others your undivided, in-the-moment attention…or leave you feeling distracted, tired and resentful?
  • Is it worth it to over-spend, searching for an ideal gift when expectations and disappointments often cancel out efforts of holiday goodwill?
  • Are your actions obligatory or from the heart?  Compulsory sentiments and gifts noticeably lack holiday cheer for both the giver and receiver.
  • Will you honor your self-care with adequate rest, nutritious foods, exercise, asking for help, and being financially responsible?  Or will you set yourself up to sour your holiday mood?

Do your actions make sense?  Do they seem a little nuts to you?  Be honest.

Enlist Creativity
If you own a bird feeder, you’ve witnessed a squirrel’s analytical creativity accessing it — including those supposedly “squirrel proof” feeders.  Be as innovative.

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Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

If others are involved, ask each person to select the one thing about the holidays that makes their heart sing.  Avoid the inner critic’s beleaguering to add just one more thing then another because you’ll be right back to the overload you tried to lighten.  Determine what is absolutely necessary then sew those pieces together to broaden smiling faces around a more joyful holiday.   You may be pleasantly surprised to discover it’s not a holiday of lack but one of overflowing abundance from the spirit within.


Apply Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s sentiment to the holidays… “Once you identify your deepest intention, you have a chance to be true to yourself, to celebrate the kind of holiday you’d like to have, and to be the kind of person you’d like to be.”


Trudging through Tradition
Several years ago I happily exchanged some traditional activities for what means most to me.  Quieter gatherings, tuning in to nature and the gifts she generously offers day in and out, gladden my spirit.  (This is not to say I don’t host or attend holiday parties.  But I keep them manageable, not falling prey to Madison Avenue’s message that I must decorate my house with a thousand lights, bake cookies, and overextend my bank account purchasing lavish gifts.)

A friend, looking frazzled and slumped in her chair, told me yesterday how overwhelmed she felt filling out 300 Christmas cards!  Three hundred cards?  Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed?  But, was it really necessary?  It’s important to connect with others and tell them how much they mean to us but if it adds a layer of stress it doesn’t make sense to me — it’s nuts.

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Photo by remi-skatulski on Unsplash

All in a Nutshell
Make the holidays what you want them to be and create cherished memories.  Don’t worry or fret.  Otherwise you may become like the red squirrel whose coat turned grey from stress.   🙂

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Photo by Arthur Rachbauer on Unsplash

Paradox of Winter

December often conjures up complaints about the cold, snow shoveling, and dangers of falling on ice, but just as often I am awestruck by winter’s beauty contrasted against a backdrop of barren starkness. And so is life. One is necessary for the other.

So, rather than more of the usual holiday hype for this month, I’m focusing instead on Mother Nature’s vivid gifts.  What comes to your mind this season…?

 

 

Nature’s wRest

Gold Leaf Landing

Everything

needs

a place

to

land.

 

 


grav·i·ty
/ˈɡravədē/
noun
The force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth,
or toward any other physical body having mass.

And a time to rest.

The frozen pond

bare branches

and ice encrusted grass.

Nature’s Circle of Comfort

Seeing these rounded hay bales in expansive green fields began to stir something deep within a few years ago that felt strangely comforting. 11-2-18 004 hay bales

I hadn’t observed this prior to practicing Qigong where I first felt a gentle, circular energy flowing between my hands.  The movements soon enriched my gardening activities and evolved my thinking about continued life which led me to the Tao and a spiraled understanding of nature and our connectivity to the universe.images

Yin-yang‘s circular energy symbolizes life’s continuum and oneness; that nothing is 100% black or white, right or wrong; we need one to have the other.  Hours accelerate around the clock transforming day to night through the calendar of winter to spring, summer to autumn, season to season, year to year, era after era, wrinkled newborn to withered senior.  This energy of oneness incorporates ourselves, others and the universe.

It is said that with Qigong (or Tai Chi) practice, you begin to view all of life as part of this circle. I have and am grateful for it.  I see the circular trees, the ever lasting round sun and moon, the flowers that know to return year after year, the rounded hay bales at harvest.  I use to fear death as a finality of life.  But Qigong, gardening, and being in nature have taught me otherwise.  This freedom from despair over my eventual death or that of loved ones is healing.  Perhaps that is why the hay bales are like Mother Nature’s hugs, offering a soothing kinship with nature and all that is around me.

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Seasons Fading Like Leaves

It’s an off season

but natural in its own right.

There’s no familiar summer, winter, spring or fall anymore

except for dates on a calendar.

Can we explain it away,

simply say the weather is as diverse as people, places, life —

that to live, to be alive, is to change?

Reduce. Recycle. Reuse they say.

But the seasons?

I am a child of four seasons

picking springtime bouquets

chasing summer fireflies

rolling in leaves

and sledding til numb.

As I matured, adult responsibilities pushed childhood activities to the recesses of my mind.  But, I never dreamed the four seasons of my youth would become a distant memory, something to read about in history books of a time that once was.

As a child, leaves fell in September.

A few years ago they began in August.

This year, my yard was covered in July.

Thunderstorms previously endured in June and humidity that marked August are now daily occurrences commandeering the summer I use to know.  Look forward to.  Love.

The seasons have faded like leaves…

Is it a natural progression of time

the human disregard for the natural order of things

or Mother Nature’s retribution?

Spring and Autumn have silently been waving good-bye

but we were too busy, too greedy, too self-centered to notice.

Reduce.  Recycle.  Reuse.

Two seasons:  hot and cold.

two

Hot and cold.

Mother Nature’s Autistic Summer

Summer 2018
Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire.  Make me run inside for shelter.  AC.  A spurt of sun appears.  Some tomatoes wear tough rain jackets, many others split on the vine while unlucky peppers turn soggy rather than red and basil’s aromatic gifts are non-existent this year.  The grill waited to be fired up but the fire and enthusiasm in me drowned out.

What to make of this autistic summer?  Although many people disagree on the “causes” of autism and of climate change, they both exhibit blatantly foreboding signs:

  • Climate change – an increase in the frequency and strength of extreme events (storms, floods, droughts) that threaten human health and safety.
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characteristics –  social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors.

Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding. Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire.

Six full days at best I could work in the yard this summer, and grill on two.  Tall grass is as unkempt as the autistic’s personal hygiene.   Weeds are poised to take over.   They know I will not be tugging at them in the rain or with mosquitos biting my neck.  Arms.  Legs.  Scratching for relief.  Scratching.  Scratching.  Where is the relief?  Summer use to be a break from the long, cold, stressful winter but Mother Nature’s fighting, hitting, kicking, biting, throwing objects from her autistic corner.  Does she feel cornered?

Autistics struggle with severe anxiety, sensory dysfunction, and deficits in social  communication.  Half are considered aggressive toward others, and nearly one-third of autistic adults are unable to use spoken language to communicate.

I hear the thunderous banging and wailing.  Her words trail behind the clouds…the rain, and tears of desperation.  I see her utter frustration.

Where did all the tomatoes go?

If you don’t start your own vegetable plants — like I usually forget to do in March, you’re probably like me and purchasing starter plants from a local greenhouse.  The problem I always run in to — especially for cherry tomatoes and peppers, is they’re usually packaged four to six plants to a flat which is way more than I need.  Luckily, another customer felt the same so I happily gave half of them away right at the checkout this year.  Still, I ended up with too many, particularly when a few plants returned on their own.  (I never have the heart to rip out and discard these orphans.)

But, I do toss tomatoes that split on the vine which turned out to be about a third of the crop this year.  After giving plenty away, making some tasty bruschetta, salads, and popping into the juicer for some added Lycopene, I’ve frozen several bags for when I’m puttering in the kitchen on a cool autumn Sunday.

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A day’s harvest…

This week I added some of those fresh tomatoes and red bell peppers to a meatless version of a southwestern pie that I make this time of year:

 

Have fun with the ingredients.  Try it for dinner tonight and let me know how you like it.

Climate Change – The Diabetes of the Globe

The climate use to be rather predictable.  At least until what we’ve seen recently.  Now, it too has a culture of anything goes.  What is going on?  Like the bad diet, little exercise and unremitting stress that provoke diabetes, haphazard behaviors and practices are radically affecting our globe.

I feel October coolness in August, August heat and humidity in June.  Downpours flooded out July, and April buds bloomed (then froze) in January.  These dizzying peculiarities are akin to the human body expressing more and more serious symptoms to get our attention…our care.  And sagacious change…for survival.

Spiked Numbers

  • Across the USA, fire seasons are two months longer than 50 years ago.  
  • Twice as many acres burn in the States now than 30 years prior.
  • Over 400,000 acres have already burned in California this year.  
  • West Nile virus, virtually unheard of two decades ago, has infected hundreds of thousands of people.
  •  Category 4 storms (winds faster than 155 mph) tripled in the last 40 years.

And to accommodate the more-recent monster storms Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann suggests adding a new Category 6 to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  Really?  It’s escalated that much?

Like diabetes running rampant across the globe, too many ignore the symptoms until it’s too late.

Diabetes Worldwide
Comparative prevalence of diabetes in people aged 20–79 years by world regions. Data from IDF Diabetes Atlas (27).

“We have to recognize that by some measures, dangerous climate change isn’t some far-off thing we can look to avoid, ” Mann said.  “It has arrived.”

Until last year, for example, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) averaged a hurricane hit once every eight years and only in the most northern island of Anegada (which is Spanish for “drowned island” by the way).  Yet in 2017, a triplet of hurricanes within two weeks pummeled most of the BVI archipelago — first category 5 Hurricane Irma, then category 4 Jose, and finally category 5 Maria.

A year later the BVI is still trying to regroup.  Many landowners can’t afford escalating insurance rates and can’t afford to rebuild.  Supplies are unavailable for months.  Hurricane Maria, by the way, was the deadliest hurricane in Puerto Rico since San Ciriaco in 1899.  Think about that — the deadliest hurricane in 119 yearsHow can these warnings be ignored?

And like diabetes, it’s not just the weather change that affects us.  It’s the complications ravaging intricate bodily systems that lead to amputations…stroke…heart disease…blindness…neuropathy…complete kidney failure.  But, unlike diabetics, there’s no transplant list for Mother Nature to receive clean air, pure water, or more land.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study indicating that many storm-related deaths are from lack of access to medical care weeks and months after the storm.   Have you considered the devastating global effects of climate change?  Once clean air, water and acreage are eradicated, where will displaced populations go?   How much food and water supplies will be lost?  How many will be infected with West Nile or Zika viruses when the mosquito infestation multiplies from increased flooded areas? 

As with diabetes, ignoring the realities is catastrophic.  The only solution is to change our ill ways and practice healthier behavior.  Put safeguards into place.  Now.  Not after our legs have been amputated.  Not after the storm blacks out the power grid and its ability to provide proper medical attention, food refrigeration, or AC for that matter.  Puerto Rico is the neon warning of what’s to come if we remain unprepared…

Admittedly, I’ve been caught up by global warming.  Particularly after enduring a very wet, grey summer and attending Josh Fox’s masterpiece performance of The Truth has Changed.  I didn’t want to believe things are as critical as they are.  But, it’s not fake news folks.  All you have to do is see and feel what is going on outside.  There’s more to think about now than do I need a raincoat or sweater today?