Staying in Focus: A Beautiful Day in My Neighborhood

What is it about spring that makes us want to go outside and play in the dirt? Is it the warm, earth-scented breezes that draw us outside, or the warmth of the sun, or the intensity of green that brings such delight to our eyes? Or perhaps it’s the birds, filling the morning air with song, as they go about building nests for their families. I imagine it is life, calling us forth to join in the return of light and warmth, growth and change.

We had a lot of rain in the early spring months here in North Carolina. Everywhere you look, flowers are blooming, trees and bushes are lush with spring green leaves, the grass, a soft carpet of beneath our feet.

Now as we near the summer solstice, the bright green of spring is deepening into the dark green of summer.  We have had a few days of uncomfortable heat and humidity, but in between, Mother Nature has gifted us with absolutely perfect days of cool weather, pleasant breezes, bright sunshine. They are the kind of days I where I simply cannot go inside, intent on savoring every minute of clear blue skies and fresh air. In fact, this coming week has a few days predicted with highs in the 70s.

I know that soon the heat and humidity will fall on us, like a heavy wet blanket draped over our shoulders and our bright blue sky enveloped in a pall of hazy white. But, for now, I will cherish each low humidity day, pottering outside with my plants, listening to the chorus of birds in the trees.

I invite you to enjoy a beautiful day in my neighborhood:

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Staying in Focus: The Joy of Pottering

What is it about spring that brings forth the urge to go outside and play in the dirt? Is it those gentle spring breezes scented with the aroma of fresh earth and growing things? Is it the warm sunshine, the songs of birds filling the air, as they flit from tree to tree, building nests, or the buzz of the bees as they search for delicate blossoms of sweet nectar? I imagine it is all of this, awakening in us the realization that winter has lost its frosty grip and we are invited to join in the return of life and growth and warmth once more.

We had a string of perfect spring days recently, and I headed out to the plant nursery to buy a few new plants, and the tools and soil I needed to repot some of my houseplants. I move some of them from their winter shelter in my dining room them to the porch for the growing season.

When we visited the British Isles a few years back, we noticed clusters of small garden plots, most with a shed or small building on them, just outside the cities, and our tour guide explained that they were the gardens of city dwellers who had no space for a backyard garden. They come out on weekends or on long summer evenings to tend their gardens and commune with nature.

The British, who have the most descriptive and colorful words for things, call this activity “pottering”. What a perfect description for getting your hands in that rich potting soil and providing a new home for a plant, or planting a flower or vegetable garden.

I do not have a potting shed, but I do have a potting bench, and as it happens, being retired, I have plenty of time for pottering. Which reminds me, I have several African violets which could use some larger pots. Maybe I’ll wander outside and play in the dirt for a while.


Staying in Focus: Welcome Spring!

Just when things seem their bleakest, some little thing comes along to chase away the doldrums and bring a smile to one’s face. I walked into my kitchen recently, where all of my houseplants huddle for the winter, vying for the sunlight streaming through the windows and happy, I think, to be inside where it is warm, rather than outside, where our temperatures continue to rise and then fall like an overcooked soufflé.

This particular day, a spot of color caught my eye, and I realized that one of my orchid plants had bloomed.  I am a sucker for orchid plants. When they arrive at the plant nurseries grouped together, I am drawn like a squirrel to birdseed. Delicate blooms in a variety of color delight the eye. A few years back, I wandered into the houseplant section of Home Depot, and before me lay a veritable garden of bright blue orchids!


This particulate orchid bloomed for a long time. I had almost given up on it when it began to bloom again. The second blooming retained some of the dye, so the blossoms were light blue, and by the third blooming, the flowers  had reverted to their original white.

Orchid plants aren’t much to look at when they are not blooming, just a few large green leaves , but they make up for it when they decide to bloom again. This year they bloomed on yet another dreary, grim, wet winter day. Thank you, my orchids, for a taste of spring when I needed it most. Not to be undone, my African Violets are now attempting to steal the show.

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Since then nature has awakened outside. The yellow forsythia are shining like the sun, and the delicate blooms on my Japanese cherry tree are dancing and bobbing in the gentle breeze. And how about that Carolina blue sky!  Ah, spring at last!

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Staying in Focus on Flowers , Lunch and Friendship

Can you think of anything more pleasant and stress relieving than having lunch with two gal pals on a sunny May afternoon, surrounded by plants like these? We had  a wonderful lunch, bowls of chilled gazpacho  filled with crisp vegetables, salad filled pita bread, fruit tossed in tasty yogurt. We talked of flowers and planting, writing books and summer plan . We celebrated new relationships, recovery from breast cancer, publishing  a book, thankful to be together, to have friends to share the triumphs and the heartaches, and to be out to lunch with each other on a day in May like this:

Sing a song of spring

in colors nature renders

dew-kissed by the morning mists

petals soft and tender…

my heart sings on days like this

sings a song of spring

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Staying In Focus: Eyes on Spring

A visit to the ophthalmologist today prompted the thoughts for these poems. With my eyes dilated and peeking out from behind my sunglasses, the colors of the green leaves unfurling on every bush and tree was a delight to see, especially with my eyes wide open.

I love perennials. Plant them once and every year they come back to surprise me. No one tells them when to start blooming – the instructions are coded in the tiny seeds we sow. Would that we could sow other seeds – of kindness, of appreciation, of consideration and love  and have them perennially bloom within us. Now that would be a sight to see!


Keep Your Eyes Open

a visit to the ophthalmologist

always an eye-opening experience

especially in early spring,

my eyes wide open to the view

of yellow and mossy and deep evergreen                                                                                                        IMG_3023

and every shade there is in between

blue green needles adorn the tall pines

and yellow green bushes arranged in a line

remind me to keep my eyes open to see

the beauty of nature surrounding me

the promise of life’s renewal each spring

and the joy and delight this season can bring!




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We sow seeds carefully each spring

and look for the delights they bring

perennials will bloom again

a precious visit from a friend

If only we could sow the seeds

of kindness , love and understanding

appreciation, concern and care,

into people everywhere,

what a change this world would see –

and be renewed  –  perennially!


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Staying in Focus: Signs of Spring, and Poetry


No matter how cold and dreary the weather is, there is something in the air that hints of spring. Maybe it is that one day a week when the temperatures  creep past 70 and we decide to take a walk. As we travel through our neighborhood,  I see changes all around. From the crocus and daffodils that encircle the tree mounds. to the pink blossoms on a Japanese cherry tree,and  the full out white blossoms of the Bradford pear trees, it is obvious that spring is fighting to vanquish old man winter. We pass a weeping willow tree covered with tiny green leaves and  notice new growth appearing on our knock out roses. The yellow of forsythia helps to draw the eye away from the still sleeping Bermuda grass. The sky is blue and the sun shines brightly and hope that we are nearing the end of this long, cold winter grows stronger every day.

I have two favorite spring poems I would like to share with you. The first is by ee cummings:


when all the world is mudluscious…

when the world is puddle-wonderful.

–  ee cummings

I love the words mudluscious and puddle-wonderful!


My other favorite poem is Spring Morning by A.A . Milne

Spring Morning

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.poems

,Down to the stream here the king cups grow –

Up on the hill where the pine trees blow –

Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.


Where am I going? The clouds sail by,

Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.

Where am I going? The shadows pass

Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.


If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,

You’d sail on water as blue as air,

And you’d see me here in the fields and say:

“Doesn’t the sky look green today?”


Where am I going? The high rooks call:

“It’s awful fun to be born at all.”

Where am I going? The ring doves coo;

“We do have beautiful things to do.”


If you were a bird, and lived on high,

You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,

You’d say to the wind when it took you away:

That’s where I wanted to go today.


Where am I going? I don’t quite know.

What does it matter where people go?

Down to the wood where the blue bells grow –

Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

– A. A. Milne

I love the imagery in the first poem – spring and mud and puddles become mudluscious and wonderful to the writer. The second one speaks to me of childhood. A windy Saturday morning, nowhere you have to be, walking along, finding flowers and listening to the birds, imagining being a cloud or a bird flying by- it doesn’t matter where you are going, the important part is the journey.


To a child, it matters not if the sun is shining or rain is pouring from the sky. Both offer opportunity for discovery and fun. One of my boys loved to stomp his boots in puddles, He could not pass them by without  a splash. Certainly not to put myself in the above august company, but I also wrote  a spring poem many years ago. I actually sold the poem to a children’s magazine, but unfortunately the magazine suspended publication before my poem was published.


I like to walk out in the rain,

along the road and through the trees

I like to stomp in puddles then,

my pants get wet right to my knees

The water splashes all about

My new red  boots go squishy-squish

when I get home , my mom will say,

“You should have been a fish!”

-pc 1988


Wecome Spring!

Staying in Focus : March, Don’t Miss the Marvelous


Nature is poised to reawaken

as anticipation fills the air

and winter loosens its fist-like grip

and we dream of warmth and growing things

yet fickle and taunting

this month of March

it begins in fits and starts

harsh winds blow and snowflakes fly

but , slowly, comes the moment when

all shake loose from winter’s thrall

and with sincere gratitude

we welcome the return of light and life.

– pc 2010

March. What can we say about this month? It is the month of windy weather – great for flying kites. It is the month of shamrocks and St. Patrick Day celebrations. Sometimes it even plays host to Easter, but not this year. Its name is certainly proper – we are marching through the year, almost one-quarter of 2014 behind us already. We try marching toward spring, but this year it seems we take two steps backward for every one step forward. We go from shirtsleeve weather to wearing our warmest coat and back again. Today is a perfect example. The weather is playing a game with the thermometer, hovering around 33 degrees, but dipping now and then into the freeze zone. The result – it even tricked the forsythia this year. My Japanese cherry tree has tried three times to bloom this winter, and this is what happens:

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I’m ready to wear my bright, colorful spring clothes, pull my spring and summer hats out of the closet and hang them on my hat tree. I bought a new one  (hat) in anticipation of spring. I did see a robin on the lawn the other day. That’s a good sign. Spring officially begins on March 20th and baseball season begins on March 31st. One way or another we will  find our way to April where showers bring flowers and rabbits deliver baskets filled with treats, and before we know it we’ll be looking forward to the cooler days of fall as summer sets in with its heat and humidity. I’m trying to live in the moment though, to be happy for the days I have, as dreary and cold as they may be. There is always something of the marvelous to be found – a blossom wearing a coat of ice, a robin hopping on the front lawn, mums and rose bushes beginning to bud, forsythia’s bright yellow blossoms adding a splash of sunshine color to an otherwise grey world . Hold to these gifts and the day will be a beautiful one. They all are.

Our visit with our friends passed by way too quickly, but we had fun going to the design center and helping them pick out everything from appliances to door knobs. It won’t be long before they are back again, (for good this time).  In the meantime we will keep an eye on things for them, and send them pictures as their rough vacant lot is transformed into a lovely home and yard.  IMG_0256 - Copy - Copy

Yesterday,as I walked them out to their car at 6:30 AM, the birds were  singing a chorus of their song to morning, the sun was already on its way to brighten the sky, and the air was warm but pleasant.  What a beautiful day! I noticed our Bermuda grass was beginning to green up and shed that hay color it adopts during the winter months. The pansies are doing well, the mums are awakening from their long winter’s nap and the forsythia bushes in the back yard are quickly trading yellow for green as the blossoms fade and the new spring-green leaves unfold.   IMG_0270 - Copy - Copy

What I find most extraordinary is that most of this happens with very little effort on our part. Each season brings its wonders, just waiting for the right time to start the show.  I think we all have felt that spring was dragging its feet a bit this year, but who can doubt it has arrived now, with the cherry trees in bloom?

Here is my homage to spring:

when the cherry blossoms dance                              IMG_0262

spring seemed to drag its feet this year
reluctant to appear and so I took a walk
to see if I could find it
and I was quite delighted
to find a branch bedecked
with a mass of cherry blossoms                                  IMG_0261
etched against  a sky of  blue
a sudden, unexpected breeze
invited them to dance
and all along the branch
they dipped and swayed together,
to the tune of mother nature
that only  they could hear
I watched their show, enchanted
as the sun, a jewel of gold
cast its mellow rays upon the sprightly scene
my heart was filled with gratitude
and assured despite my doubt
that spring had finally come
with the blossoms , the blue sky
and the warming of the sun.
                                              –   pc 2013    

Focus On: The Winds of March


with nature poised to reawaken
I taste anticipation in the air
but harshly blow the winds of march
and still snowflakes may fall
until the iron grip relaxes
and I shake loose from winter’s thrall.
and as the long night gives way to day
I bask in the light and celebrate life.
– pc 2013

It seems as if this has been a long, cold, dark winter despite the fact that we had a few really warm, sunny days sprinkled in, here and there. I think what has colored our perception this year in particular has been the wind. I can take the cold of winter, if the night air is still, but add that wind and I’m shivering from head to toe.  For the most part, wind is a mystery. We can’t actually see it, but we can hear it. A few times this winter it literally howled outside my window, a beast loosed in the night. And we can see the paths it travels by the devastation it can leave behind.  Should it form a tornado, its power is magnified and it is potential is deadly. Wind is a force to be reckoned with, but one associated with the return of spring. As the news informs us, keep an eye on the weather and be prepared.

In a recent poetry class, we worked on simile and metaphor and I searched out a poem I had written previously and revised it: With March roaring in like a lion, I thought it was topical:

The Storm

she watches,,

as the wind rages
a beast, unleashed,
like a total solar eclipse
consumes the light in its hunger,
until darkness rules the day;

at the window she stands
behind her fragile barrier
the power fascinates, the wind
a wolf howling its challenge
as it races toward her

she wonders…

will the beast eat hungrily
leaving nothing behind
save piles of broken boards
scattered like fractured bones?

or will it leap, release the light
and like a horse, now gentled
flow like a mere breeze
brushing by her face
on a spring day?

she waits…

I am trying to live in the moment and just enjoy these last days of cold weather. I know in August, I’ll remember them fondly. But I can’t help looking forward to welcoming that gentle lamb which March is supposed to emulate by month’s end. And although spring can be a volatile season of tornadoes and destruction, it is also the season of hope and of life renewed as the trees and flowers wake from their slumber.  Don’t let the season go by without seeing ,smelling and feeling it.  Enjoy the bright green of new leaves ,the saucy yellow of the daffodils, the scent of fresh, newly planted earth, the warmth of the sun on your shoulders.Take a walk, Feed the pansies. Use that wind to your advantage and go fly a kite. Tour the seed catalogs and plan your garden.  Practice being in the moment. Remember to:. Pay attention. Be astonished!