Saturday, April 20, 2019

N is for nourishing rain

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

Today, spring's unfolding was very, very wet. I was walking to church for a Good Friday service, but didn't get very far when a neighbor picked me up and asked me if I was going to church. She told me that it was too rainy for me to walk. I said that it was OK. I had a roof over my head. All right. So it was a portable roof (aka umbrella). The church service was short, solemn, and sad. It is the one day of the year when it truly feels as if all hope is lost.

But is it? 

The church was pelted with rain. Rain that was nourishing the soil and enticing life to spring from the soil. Underneath the soil, there are worms and insects acting as decomposers, helping to recycle the dead organic matter from the garden, slowly turning it into soil. It is a slower process than composting, which adds heat to the process, 

Today, I was asked, "Do you like rain?"

"Yes," I said. "It gives moisture to the soil. We need to have lots of rain so that we don't end up with a drought by mid-summer."

Rain can be inconvenient for fun things, such as baseball games, but it is needed. Water is life and water gives life. Spring unfolding has been slow this year, but it is happening. Soon the rains will give way to sunshine and color. There will be hyacinths, and the forsythia bushes will become little orbs of bright yellow sunlight.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

M is for mulch

As spring unfolds, our thoughts turn toward planting our gardens and maybe planting a few trees. We want our gardens to look their very best because a colorful garden is one of the keys to happiness. And one of the ways to make gardens look great while also suppressing excessive weed growth is to use mulch.

Mulch is great because, not only does it suppress excessive weed growth, it also keeps moisture in the soil so you don't have to feel like you need to water your garden twice a day. Well, of course, there are times when you do need to water your garden twice a day. Those times would be times when there is insufficient rainfall or it's very hot or a combination of the two. You want to make sure, though, that you don't water during the hottest part of the day! 

But I digress. This post is about mulch, not water! So... mulch looks pretty and it makes the flower bed look nice and neat. When I am taking care of a flower bed and I add mulch to it, I feel as if I have finished the job nicely and have accomplished a makeover for the garden. We all like to have a nice pampering and a makeover so it's great if the garden gets that pampering and makeover, too! I see no down side in adding a nice coat of mulch to a flower garden.

This is an example of volcano
mulching. Notice how the
mulch is mounded very
high against the
tree trunk.
But trees. Hmmm. It is fine to mulch around the tree. Unfortunately, many landscapers and homeowners make a mistake when mulching. They mound the mulch around the tree trunk. Apparently, it is supposed to be a look. This is called "volcano mulching." Not only is it not a lovely sight, it is also bad for the tree. It is very bad for newly planted trees and it is also bad for established trees. Let me offer you an analogy. Let's say that you are wearing a turtleneck sweater. You want to create an interesting fashion statement so you cover your mouth and nose with the turtleneck sweater. Maybe your eyes, too. Well, that would be rather uncomfortable and it would make breathing a challenge! It's the same way with trees. The root collar of the tree must be visible. That helps the tree breathe better, too. And another reason for not volcano mulching is that, when you water your tree (and new trees need massive amounts of water to become established), the mulch is actually drawing the water away from the tree roots.

new tree, with nothing
covering its trunk. This
is a good way to plant a tree.
So... what is a good way to mulch around a tree? Well, instead of thinking of a mound, think of a donut. The donut is mulch arranged in a circle around the tree trunk. It doesn't touch the tree trunk so that the root collar can be visible. And, with a circle of mulch around a tree, the water will be steered toward the tree roots. This should help your new tree thrive and grow tall and strong and, eventually, provide you with good shade.

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

Happy gardening! And happy spring!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

L is for Lent

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

It rained today. The old cliche is that April showers make May flowers. Well, I suppose, it's true, but, oh! It's so wet. Yesterday, I walked over to the post office to pick up my mail. It was to be my last day of mail pick-up. 
Pastor Kevin Slough of Trinity
United Methodist Church talked
about an Easter hymn ("Christ the Lord
is Risen Today"): "The song was written in
present tense by John & Charles
Wesley... resurrection is the basis
of the Christian faith... the original
version had eleven verses."
A few months ago, my mailbox received what I believed to be a mortal blow from a combination of too much snow piled up upon it and a powerful wind storm. The mailbox, however, apparently was a cat with nine lives. It was not dead, after all. My friend Jenn Jablon Pusatier put the mailbox back up. I am very grateful for that act of kindness.

So there was no mail waiting for me at the post office. 
Father Martin Gallagher, parochial
vicar at Saint Stephen Roman
Catholic Church talked about
forty days of preparation. "We fast
to prepare and to repent. Do we
think of others and do we show God
that we are sorry for our
Later yesterday afternoon, the mail was delivered... into the mailbox! No more walking nearly three miles to the post office to collect a pack of bills, magazines, and newspapers. I'll never take mailboxes for granted again.

But I digress, as I so often do. I know. The title is Lent.
It's about waiting and preparation. And that is what spring unfolding is. It's about watching and waiting
for my little part of the world to come back to brightness, color, and life.

Pastor Kris Bjerke-Ulliman of
Saint Timothy Lutheran Church
went to school to be a musician.
The hymn that she chose,
"O Sacred Head Now Wounded,"
was translated into German
by Paul Gerhardt, and the
music was composed by
J.S. Bach. "The
hymn is a treasure for the universal
And yesterday, as I was walking to the post office, I saw big, fat buds on some of the small trees. I felt happy. I had been waiting for this for so long. There is a lot of waiting when watching spring unfold. Spring doesn't follow a set schedule.

Mary Lou Pohl read the reflection
of Father Chris O'Connor,
transition priest at Saint
Episcopal Church, as he was away
with his wife, Colleen,
also an Episcopal priest,
visiting an ill family member.
That is what Lent is all about. It's about waiting and about preparing. In the Northern Hemisphere, there is a connection between Easter and spring. I looked up how the date of Easter is determined each year, and this is what I found it. The church always views March 21st as the vernal equinox, even though it can actually vary from March 19th until March 22nd. Well... so, Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon that follows the vernal equinox. Clear as mud? Yep, I think so, too.

"Lent is a unique period of time for
us. It can be an important and
serious time of reflection... Glory
means honor, magnificence,
and beauty. Is Lent
glorious?" ("the Glory
of these Forty Days")
This year, I attended each of five Lenten luncheons. The theme for the luncheons was the music of the season.They are organized by the Grand Island Ministerium, which is an interdenominational group of pastors that plans various events during the year.
The Rev. Carla Kline, pastor
of Island Presbyterian Church, discussed
the hymn "Go to Dark
Gethsemane," a song that
chronicles the death of
Jesus. She played a choral
version of the song, composed
by T. Tertius Noble. It was
very dramatic and full of pain
and power.
 The luncheons feature a delicious meal prepared by members of the hosting congregation, followed by a reflection by a clergymember.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

K is for Kleinhans Music Hall

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letterYesterday, I had the opportunity to go to Kleinhans Music Hall, located in the west side of Buffalo, for a presentation of "The Passion of Yeshua," by Richard Danielpour. The construction of Kleinhans was funded by the federal Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, and Kleinhans was opened as a concert venue on October 12th, 1940. Before then, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, which was founded in 1935, made its home in the Elmwood Music Hall. That building, however, was demolished in 1938. Originally, the orchestra was funded by the federal Works Progress Administration and the Emergency Relief Bureau. 

The effect of those Depression-era programs can still be felt today, as Buffalo has a world-class orchestra that performs in a wonderful facility. Kleinhans Music Hall has incredible acoustics. That makes going to performances there sheer delight. My seat was upstairs in the balcony, and I had no trouble hearing this performance, thanks to these magnificent acoustics.

Outside, it was rainy and a bit windy. Rainy days in April are annoying, but they are signs that spring truly is unfolding. The ground is becoming softer, and the partially grown plants are being nourished by life-giving water. 

Inside, this oratorio, which was composed in 2017, was dramatic, emotional, and very powerful. The oratorio chronicles the last days of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It is actually a musical adaptation of the passion gospel that is read in church on Palm Sunday. It is sung in two languages: Hebrew and English. Another thing that made this production unique is a duet sung by J'Nai Bridges as Mary (mother of Jesus) and Hila Plitmann as Miryam Magdala. In the program notes, conductor JoAnn Falletta describes this duet as the composer sharing a woman's perspective "for the first time -- both Mary the Mother of God and Mary Magdelene share their devotion and sorrow in a groundbreaking departure from tradition."

Yesterday's performance was the east coast premiere of "The Passion of Yeshua." The combination of the soloists, the choruses, and the orchestra was incredible. The story was brought to life through the powerful performances of the soloists, the choruses, and the orchestra. 

The massive chorus that acted as the crowd in the story was comprised of two groups: the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and the UCLA Chamber Singers. In addition to the chorus, a group of five singers played the main roles. In addition to J'Nai Bridges and Hila Plitmann, they were: Matthew Worth as Narrator/Talmuda, Kenneth Overton as Yeshua,  Tomothy Fallon as Kefa (Peter)/Pilate, and UCLA Chamber Singers Director James Bass as Kayafa.

As I watched and listened, I experienced the gamut of emotions, which included fear, love, sadness, and loss. Throughout the production, I felt completely absorbed by the story that was being told on the stage. My own world was gone, replaced by the story that was unfolding before me. The performances felt very real, very raw, and completely alive. It was truly a spectacular piece of music and it was exciting to experience that music as a member of the audience.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

J is for jubilantly joyful

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

Yesterday, I found daffodils for the first time. The sight was jubilantly joyful and it made spring unfolding feel real.
It was warm and the sun was sort of shining and I went out for a short walk to pick up food because I was headed to a different house for an overnight pet-sitting job.

That evening, as I was settling into my pet-sitting job, I looked out the back window and saw deer. Eight deer, to be exact. They were standing with their friends in the back yard and were looking around for something to eat. There still wasn't much of anything. Speaking of deer food, if you don't want your garden to turn into a taste treat for deer, plant daffodils and jonquils. Apparently, they taste bad. Deer consider tulips to be a taste treat or a delicacy. They like to dig in the ground and gobble down tulip bulbs. So, if you live in an area with lots of deer, I don't recommend growing tulips.

Friday, April 12, 2019

I is for idyllic

Spring is my favorite season. #AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letterEvery time I see flowers open up and buds swell and burst on trees, I feel full of joy. The colors and the smells are so.... ahhh-chooooooo! Um. Oops. All right. I have to admit that I am allergic to tree pollen. And grass. And these come in abundance in springtime. Doesn't newly mown grass smell so... ahh-choo!... good? It's so happy that it makes my nose itch. If your nose itches, that means that you're going to kiss a fool.

Hahaha. (kisses self) Ahh-choooooo! (no, I'm not allergic to myself!)

Oh well. I'd rather sneeze than freeze!

Other than the incessant sneezing part, I would describe spring as lovely and idyllic. It's truly the season of happiness and hope. So... idyllic. Here's one definition that I found at the Merriam-Webster site: "pleasing or picturesque in natural simplicity."

But with sneezes? Is that truly idyllic? 

And why not? Don't we love roses? They are beautiful! Does that mean that you're going to grab hold of a branch on a rosebush because of your mad love for roses. Roses have self-defense devices, otherwise known as thorns, that will cause you some level of feeling ouchy. Probably not. But still. What flower are we all going to get momma for Mothers' Day next month? Well, probably roses. It's to show love, not because we want her to jab herself with thorns. 

Anyway, happy spring, and I hope that your scenes are idyllic, warm, and full of color, even if they are sneeze worthy.

H is for height

Height. Great height. Standing tall. I live in a culture that values height.  If you're tall, you've got it all. Or so it seems to those of us who are small. What can I say? I'm not at all tall, and I'm not going to get any taller! So let's talk about nonhuman living things that are tall. My theme is "spring unfolding," and, in nature, the things that are tall are trees and giraffes. Giraffes are not native to North America so I will focus on trees.  Do we believe that trees that are tall have it all? Do we show mad love and respect for our tall trees? And we do have some impressively tall trees. The tallest trees are out west but I haven't seen them. California Redwood and Sequoia don't grow here. I guess that I will have to put visitng places that have those mighty trees on my bucket list. I don't mind being small around the tallest of trees. 

And tall they are. The Giant Sequoia is known to be a massive tree. Its average height is 164 to 279 feet (50 to 85 meters). And it lives a long time, from 3,000 to 4,000 years. It takes 500 to 700 years for sequoias to reach maturity. Being an immature 500-year-old is really something.  But, eventually, even giant sequoias die. They fall over because of storms and then they begin the slow process of decomposition, feeding the soil and causing the cycle of life to repeat itself.

The world's tallest tree lives in California. It is a coast redwood called Hyperion and it is more than 379 feet (115.5 meters) in height.

In New York State, the tallest tree is a tulip tree, called the Mill Neck Tulip Tree. It is 167 feet tall (about 50 meters), and it lives in Zoar Valley, in Western New York. Western New York's oldest tree can be found in Buffalo. But where? There's a sycamore tree on Franklin Street that is 308 years old. There are reports of an oak tree in Delaware Park that is 318 years old, soooooooo....

Well, here in Grand Island, we've got some tall trees, but very old trees? Probably not. Nearly all of the white oaks were removed in the nineteenth century and were turned into mastheads for ships. Nevertheless, our tall trees are becoming fewer in number because of diseases and infestations, such as the emerald ash borer. So let's talk about that aforementioned mad love andrespect for trees here in Grand Island and in your communities. What are some things that we could all do to keep our tall trees looking tall and mighty? How about sending a gift of a tall tree of the future by participating in various tree plantings that occur around arbor day, which is at the end of this month.  Tree plantings are a great sign of spring unfolding and they are a gift to future generations.    


Thursday, April 11, 2019

G is for gray skies

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter 

It snowed yesterday and today. For a short time, the flakes fell furiously. Well, almost furiously. OK, well, in my overactive imagination, the flakes fell furiously. It's April. What can I say? Spring is supposed to be unfolding. Was I watching spring refolding back into winter? Say it ain't so! It's baseball season! Snow, be gone!

What do you do when the skies are gray and the wind blows and walking through the woods seems like less than fun? When the colorful crocuses don't open? Here are some images of two of the things that I did. 

First up was the 365-day crochet project. I am busily working on piecing together my second afghan of the year.
This one will be comprised of 24 large squares. The colors that I am using in this afghan are: white, "hot blue," black,
medium purple, a pastel mix, and a blue/black mix. 

The second project was something that I did at the Golden Age Center.
It is an  Easter wreath, colorful and bright, in pastel colors. It says "spring is unfolding." At this moment, spring's unfolding has been temporarily delayed, but... um... it will happen... on Friday. The weather forecasts... what else? Spring showers. Rain, that is.

What do you like to do on a dreary and wet day?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

F is for fallen

During the winter, the winds howl and they knock weakened trees over. The trees land on the ground in the forest and they sit there for years. Other trees, especially ash trees, become infested with invasive insects. They die and they either fall over or they are cut down.
Whether the tree has fallen over on its own or was cut down, that tree becomes home to a type of fungi called bracket fungi, which are hard and look like plates growing out of the tree. Although dead, the trees are teeming with life.
They are full of a variety of insects, including termites, butterfly larvae, beetles, ants, and wood wasps. As spring unfolds, insect life returns to the dead trees. Since dead trees are part of the landscape in the forest, they are still actively part of the cycle of life. 

And those trees will be part of the cycle of life for some time. Trees take many years to decompose, unlike food waste that goes into a compost bin. Trees contain lignin, which is a durable substance.
It lasts for centuries. According to this article in ScienceNordic (link: amazing facts about dead trees), there are mummified trees in northern Canada that are more than two million years old. When you're out on a walk in the woods, take a look at the fallen trees and check out how many insects and fungi have made those trees their home.
#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

Monday, April 8, 2019

E is for early spring effervescence

It got warm today.
And, after church, I suddenly felt a need to be outside, exploring nature and the wonders of the change of seasons.
So, off I went to Buckhorn Island State Park. The park looks sparse. I wondered what was happening and soon had my answer in a sign that said that the park was in the midst of a restoration project. 

Buckhorn Island State Park has been full of invasive plant species for some time. And, now, those plants are being removed so that native species can grow again without being crowded out by the aggressive invasives.
The park also looked kind of sparse because the park's many ash trees were either dead or dying.

Buckhorn was full of life, however, in the form of migratory birds, especially gulls and geese.
Smaller birds were chirping overhead.  As I walked on the path and headed out on the peninsula, I saw more and more birds, swimming in the river.
As I got nearer to the end of the peninsula, I could hear the birds, screaming and crying out to one another. I could see them standing in large groups on a nearby small island.

Spring is unfolding slowly. But unfolding it is, with bird cries and swimming geese.
For me, the experience of watching the birds felt like early spring effervescence. The river was full of energy and excitement. And hope for a spring renewal, as well as for a beautiful restoration that will bring back the native species of plants. That will mean more butterflies and bees and more song birds. There is much to look forward to as spring continues to unfold.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

D is for desolation and new life

This morning found me at Cornerstone Church in Grand Island. I looked out the window and saw the stark landscape of late winter. The bare trees and the old, dried leaves by the tree trunks felt like desolation. The scene outside had been like that for months. But there was change in the air. It was warmer and the ground was starting to show signs of softening after a few days of rainfall. The cycle of life was turning my little corner of the world from winter into spring, the season of new life and renewal.

Inside, the church was full of people. We were all there because we knew one man, Charles Cowart. Some were friends, some were coworkers, some were neighbors, and some were family. For me, Charles was a neighbor. He and his wife Karen were very kind and generous people who had been a large part of creating a warm neighborhood in a piece of suburbia.

Years ago, when I first moved with my family to Grand Island, I wondered if any human beings lived on my block. I saw cars travel down the road and make their turns onto driveways. Then a garage door opened and the cars went in. When the garage doors closed, I realized that I had seen no humans, just cars. It was very unusual that I saw people outside. The lack of people felt like devastation.

Fast forward to the present day. Same block. I look out the window and I see people walking their dogs. I see bicycles. I see people jogging. The neighborhood had come to life. It had cycled out of the devastation of human isolation to the joyful new season of a friendly neighborhood where people share one another's happinesses, as well as their sadness.

Today, at Charles' funeral, I saw several people from that neighborhood, who were there as a sign of support and friendship. Charles, who was the father of four, was described as "the best dad ever," "not just a brother in law, but a true brother," "a mentor and friend to many," and "distinguished and handsome." Charles, who was deeply committed to his church, Bible Fellowship Center, was involved in ministries both large and small. His small ministry was his card ministry. Many people were the recipients of cards that he had sent them, after conversations of family loss or illness. His big ministry was the prison fellowship, where he acted as a friend and mentor to many within the state's correctional facilities. Knowing that someone cares about them is a big thing for people in prison, who feel the desolation of separation from home and loved ones.  

I could see that the seeds of hope and kindness had been cast in my neighborhood, in the state prisons, and everywhere that Charles had visited. And, in the faces of the many people who were assembled at the church for Charles' Celebration of Life, I could see that the seeds of hope had turned into the life of love and community. 

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter