Thursday, June 25, 2015


Wearily, I put my foot on the spading fork and dug deep, lifting up the rich, dark soil along with a good-sized clump of small, white bulbs with narrow leaves and bright blue flowers still attached.  Ahead of me in this bed was a sea of blue. I had my work cut out for me.
The Spanish bluebell or Wood hyacinth is a spring-flowering bulbous perennial native to the Iberian Peninsula. Like many other plants, it was carried away from its native land by well-meaning people and is now found world-wide, including here in western Washington. Although it appears to behave itself in many places, it tends to run rampant in our area; with moderately good soil and fair amounts of water, it takes over.

When we moved here thirty five years ago, we discovered these lovely beauties among the plants that the previous owners had planted. I remember them always blooming around the time of our son's early May birthday. I enjoyed them so much that I eagerly transplanted them to many places in our yard.

But this innocent-appearing plant naturalizes to the point of killing everything else and takes shelter under and around roots of shrubs and trees. The bulbs connect to others underground by tendrils, and also by adding tiny seed-sized bulbs around themselves at the same time. When the flowers dry, round hard seeds form and you can have hundreds of new hardy seeds flying around your beds, yard, and neighborhood where they readily self-sow. They survive beyond belief, and although they can grow densely, their thin leaves allow all kinds of weeds in your beds anyway. They just became too much of a good thing and I finally made the decision to get rid of them. All of them - and those bulbs must be removed by hand.

They remind me of the many possessions we all seem to accumulate as we go through life. It begins with things we need, which becomes things we want, and then morphs into things we think we have to have and can't live without. Toy boxes overflow, closets become crammed, garages have no room for cars, and before we know it we need to rent extra storage units to hold all our stuff. Like the ubiquitous Spanish bluebells, our possessions gradually take on a life of their own and quietly take over our lives. Before we know it, our possessions own us.

Like digging up the bluebells, it takes hard work to disentangle ourselves from our belongings. It seems we spend much of our lives working to accumulate things and as we reach that "certain age" - if we are wise - some of us work at ridding ourselves of them. "You can't take it with you." they say, but some of us try very hard to do just that.

Today, our flower bed is nearly clear of those lovely Spanish bluebells. It's taken me several months of digging to get the majority of those bulbs and I expect more time is needed to complete the job. Still, I will not be surprised if some of them pop up next spring.

We are down-sizing and unloading possessions also and the effort is similar. In both instances, the results are the same - peaceful, uncluttered space - in the garden, in the house, in our bodies, minds, and souls.

Will I miss those bluebells and possessions I've parted with? In some fleeting moments I'm sure I will, but the memories are locked away in my heart and mind. At the end of our lives - and I'm not there yet - it's said that all we really have left is our memories. Uncluttering our lives simply leaves more room for all those wonderful memories...
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, who is good and pleasing and perfect.  1 Romans 12:2

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9    

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Susie's Rhubarb Pie


In the neighborhood of my early childhood, most of the kids that I knew and played with lived nearby. There were nine to sixteen of us in this half-block area and we spent much of our time, as kids of that era did, playing outside. The dads were away at work during the day and the moms stayed home, so we did have adult supervision of a sort. Not that the moms knew everything that we did, but they had their ways of keeping track of us. I can't say that any of us remained close friends, but we got along for the most part and when we didn't we'd somehow work things out. We were truly a middle-class, blue-collar neighborhood and we all knew the unwritten rules. In our own way, we were a tight-knit group. Occasionally, we'd get a "new kid on the block" and two of those stand out in my memory.
Jackie Stackhouse only spent a couple of summers in the corner house across the alley. The house belonged to his grandparents and there were rumors that his parents were divorced - one of the cardinal sins of the day. He was a cute kid; I remember him as olive-skinned, with dark brown hair and chocolate eyes. He and the boys of the neighborhood quickly joined forces, but it wasn't long before they ousted him - "He's a sissy", "He cheats", "He's a half-breed", "He's only here for the summer." I honestly did not know what to think, but neighborhood loyalty ran deep in those days. My parents, ever wise and compassionate, had a heart-to-heart talk with me. They explained that Jackie's parents were having problems, but that was not his fault and so he was spending the summer with his grandparents. "Be nice to him." they said, "He's lonely and could use a friend." I was not to be that friend and I'm not sure that he ever had one in the neighborhood, but I did stop and talk with him several times over the back fence where he played alone. I found him to be a sweet and gentle boy and I often wonder what became of him...

Susie Gates was a redheaded, freckle-faced spitfire. She and her mother moved into the basement apartment right next to us and I have no recollection of how long they lived there, but it wasn't very long. We quickly became acquainted; she loved to play dolls and dress-up, but usually wore dresses and didn't like to get dirty, so our friendship ran hot and cold. One summer day when I was down visiting in her place, I told of how the neighbor on the other side of our house had a large patch of rhubarb. Susie's mom told us that if we would go and pick some, she would make us a rhubarb pie. Of course I knew better, but that pie sounded wonderful and so I led Susie to the spot and we sneakily stole some rhubarb. Returning to the apartment, my mouth began to water for that pie, but Susie's mom told me it was time for me to go home and I never got a bite. That made me angry and I confessed to my mom what we had done. I said it was OK because Susie's mom had told us to, but Mom set me straight in no time. "They may be having tough times," she said, "but you still need to do what you know is right."
 I sometimes think of stealing that rhubarb and of the pie I never got to taste, but mostly I think of Susie and her mother and of how difficult things must have been for them. Back then, I really didn't have a clue...

 ..."Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."     Luke23:43
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God.     Philippians 1:9-11