The Inspiring Distraction of Nature

It’s surprisingly hard to write while sitting outside. Nature is inspiring, but it’s also distracting. No sooner do I begin to compose a coherent thought when the sudden waggling of a tomatillo plant indicates the woodchuck has stopped by for a snack. A flash of orange and black among the zinnias tells me the monarchs are here, looking for their daily allotment of nectar and pollen. A loud buzz and a quick series of “cheeps” is a sure sign that the hummingbird is working the jewelweed and the sunflowers and is not too happy that Athena is watching. Or is she? No, she’s not really into it at the moment…

Then there is the sky… On days like today, the sky is active and full of stored energy, just waiting to let it go when it feels ready. Warm breezes carry the cottony cumulus over the yard and beyond the trees; they seem to be on a mission. Above the clouds, the sky is a powdery grey-blue, a bright but hazy melange of water vapor and dust particles that may coalesce at any moment into a towering cumulonimbus that produces a rip-roaring thunderstorm… or not.

A small plane comes into view over the trees, it’s engine changing pitch as it circles the neighborhood. Another warm breeze brings the sound of the late-summer cicadas, their whirring buzz rising and falling in intensity. Who can concentrate with all this going on?

It is, of course, all worth the distraction. When the words don’t come, you can just sit back and take it all in, soaking Nature up in all its distracting glory like a thirsty sponge. It’s really amazing that there’s so much going on in what is usually just a distant backdrop to our lives. And when we do want to bring this backdrop closer for our inspection, we feel that we need to create artificial enticements in order to experience this connection. Not true!

For example, we have, in the past, fed the birds from various feeders throughout the year. Not just winter, but through the summer, too, so that we could enjoy their beauty and intriguing behaviors. Turns out, there’s no need to purchase expensive bird feed and put up feeders (only to watch helplessly as squirrels and raccoons and chipmunks make off with the precious loot, destroying the feeders in the process). Just plant a variety of flowers and let native plants have their way. That’s all there is to it!

This year we planted a large area along the back fence with various flower seeds–a sunflower mix, marigolds, zinnias, borage, lemon grass, and chamomile. Everything sprouted and grew with vigor except the lemon grass, and perhaps that’s not such a big loss. The chamomile did surprisingly well (I’ve tried it before with little success), but it was quickly overshadowed by the other larger flowers. Besides adding beautiful color to the backyard, all summer these flowers have attracted butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds in search of nectar and pollen. Now that most of the flowers are going to seed, the cardinals and the goldfinches spend hours there every day. I’m hoping to collect some of those seeds, myself, but there certainly seems to be enough for everyone. Of course, with an abundance of greenery around, you often get the occasional uninvited guest…I did take some time yesterday to collect a few seeds. Some of the zinnias and marigolds have finished blooming and are ready for harvest. Then there are these yellow aster-like flowers that I bought last year but can’t remember what they’re called… they reseeded themselves and did pretty well this year.

I really want to cut some sunflower heads, but I don’t think the seeds are quite ready yet, even though the birds and squirrels seem to be going ahead. Sunflowers are a new thing for us; seed collection (and next spring’s planting) may be successful, or it may not. Either way, we’re learning.

It’s all an experiment, though… our gardening motto is “go ahead and try it… see what happens.” There’s always next year. 🌸


The days are getting shorter…

August 29, 2017 – The days are getting shorter. This is especially noticeable as the rhythms and patterns of the Earth shift compared to the unchanging patterns of the human day. I sit on my couch in the early morning as I write this, looking out the sunroom windows to the east and notice the differences in the light now–both in quantity and quality–compared to a few weeks ago. Now, 6:00 AM is all dim, misty, pale dawn with crickets still softly chirping and the neighbor’s backyard light still on. Just a few weeks ago, bright rays of sun would have already been poking through the trees, and the morning would have been bright, sharp, and noisy. Birds would have been chattering and swooping, going about their morning business. This time of year, even when the morning is well under way, the light never seems to have that hot, intense sharpness; it’s more warm, radiant, and golden.

This morning’s sky is clear–peaceful and serene, but not as dramatic as a partly cloudy sky. Light needs a companion–a towering cumulonimbus, a high mountain peak, a hillside carpeted with autumn trees–to create drama and awe.

Without the light, there are no amazing landscape or skyscape views. And without land and sky objects, the light just continues on its journey, uninterrupted by interesting features.

I think most often we prefer to have things to look at, objects that catch our eye and focus our attention. But, an “empty sky” has its own special beauty, giving us a glimpse of the vastness, the immensity, the infinity that is our world and our universe.