wildflowers.

“Flowers are the music of the ground…”

~Edwin Curran~

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Here are some buttercups I took a photo of when I was hiking in Kananaskis early this summer. The trouble is that I’m frequently distracted by precious and rare little beauties like these along the trail… I don’t mind, but it’s potentially a bit dangerous, as hiking trails are notoriously uneven, root-riven, and frequently meander along steep mountainsides.

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I’m afraid there’s nothing for it; I must stop and look. And touch. Not every exquisite little splash of colour smells as sweet as the wild roses, but there is enjoyment to be found in a moment passed with every single one. I feel like saying to them, in a voice I’d use with a child, “What a pretty girl!”

One thing that so appeals to me about wildflowers is the way they grow and bring bright and lovely colours out of uncultivated, sometimes seemingly barren patches of ground. When I think of all the effort we put into getting just the right soil mix in our gardens, it amazes me what the earth can bring forth all on her own. Spotting these little gems feels to me like finding hidden treasures in treacherous, out-of-the-way places.

This reminds me of these wise words I read several years ago:

They buried usbut they didn’t know we were seeds.”

~Dinos Christianapoulos~

 

It’s funny, isn’t it? Serendipitous. I’m inspired to push up toward the sunlight, through the rocky challenges I face, and bring out the best beauty and sweetness I can, in spite of tough conditions.

Here are some gorgeous ones my son sent me the other day:

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How nice it is for us to be able to ‘send flowers’ to someone we love from far away, with no costs or delivery delays…

So blessed,

Leah 

potted garden.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ~ Cicero~

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Well, the public libraries have been closed for COVID, and I live in an apartment condo, but I am turning to the bookshelves in our living room and my library book reading app to meet my book needs.

As for gardens, my husband and I are doing some backyard gardening with friends of ours who live nearby. And… we are growing a lovely little potted garden on our balcony!

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I planted some strawberries and tomatoes, lavender and rosemary, also a geranium, some thyme, basil, and cilantro from local greenhouses. Plus, I planted seeds to grow poppies, peas, spinach, arugula, baby carrots, and maybe some other things. (maybe I should have used some markers…?) We’ll see what comes up!

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As you can see, neither our balcony nor our potted plants can boast over-the-top aesthetic value. Still, I have to admit that growing these containers of food and flowers seems to be making me disproportionately happy. Looking out and seeing green life somehow cheers my soul more than it should. And our little garden has invited birds and bees to visit us on the balcony!

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I’m not the only one who finds joy in messing around with seeds, leaves, and dirt. It’s proven to lift our spirits in so many ways. Here are a couple articles that explain in some weirdly fascinating scientific detail (seratonin-producing soil bacteria, anyone?) just how growing any kind of garden can make us a little- or a lot- happier people.

Gardening: The Key To Health And Happiness

How Does Gardening Make You Happier?

We did prioritize south exposure when we bought this home. I can really relate to plants; I need sunshine to feel ok. But even if we were in an apartment across the hall, with a north-facing balcony, we could grow a garden of shade-loving plants. This simple pleasure is available to so many of us, and I’m grateful for the magic of growing gardens.

So blessed,

Leah 

 

mountains.

“The mountains are calling, and I must go…”

~John Muir~

What a way to spend a day! I love the mountains

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~me with my baby sis on Yamnuska~

What is it about hiking in the mountains…? It just feels so good, even when it’s hard trekking uphill. I’m breathing hard, sweating hard, and have to take lots of little breaks along the way. In all honesty, the little moments when I pause to just breathe (read: catch my breath) and look around me might just be the best part.

I’ve never been athletic, and I’m not super fit, so I like going pretty slow and soaking in all the sights and sounds and smells of the mountains. Sometimes a brisk breeze refreshes me and keeps me cool, and then minutes later I’m between a rock face and some fir trees, feeling waves of heat wafting through the scented air.

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“Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.”

~John Muir~

One thing I notice when I’m hiking, especially on a mountain trail, is that I’m mindful of every step. I have to be; there are roots and stones and twists and turns all along the path. It’s the only way to stay vertical. And that’s a gift. Everyone’s heard of the health benefits of mindfulness, and taking a hike in the mountains is one of my favourite ways to enjoy a mindful walk.

I’m fairly sure that at least a part of my sense of euphoria while hiking comes from just being in the woods. Trees have been shown to emit a healing energy, as evidenced by the increasingly popular practice of forest-bathing. I realize the science is pretty compelling here, but with or without the proven metrics, I’m a believer.

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So blessed,

Leah

apartment living.

I live in a high-rise apartment condo. There are 7 levels of parking under the building and 20 floors of homes. Between our tower and its twin is a great fitness club with a lovely salt-water pool, a hot tub, steam rooms, and a variety of workout spaces. We’re right down the hill from the city’s biggest university, and only a few minutes’ drive from downtown. There is lots of traffic on the road out front; part of the Trans-Canada Highway almost passes by our front door. And yet…

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me in my ‘backyard’ last summer

Out the back is a beautiful park with miles of lovely paths for walking, cycling, and even some hiking trails through a pretty Douglas Fir forest across the footbridge over the river.

Although we live almost in the centre of Calgary, we are so blessed because nature is readily accessible just outside our door. Last year on Canada Day (1 July) I was cycling just across the river from our home with my daughter; we were amazed to see a full-grown mama moose walk out a little way ahead of us! For real. She dawdled on the path for a moment before disappearing into the woods on the other side.

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me a bit downriver last summer

I’m sure there are hidden treasures of nature, small or large, to be discovered in most cities. It feeds my soul to be out there.

So blessed,

Leah 

rainy days.

It’s a rainy day. I’m not mourning the sunshine. I know it’s still up there, bright as anything- above the clouds. Besides, rainy days make everything outside a bit greener, and I feel like the cool wet weather rejuvenates more than just the local plant life…

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I remember in my last year of high school, at the end of hot, muggy days the rain would come pouring down in the dark summer evenings. I’d call up my friend, Rosalind, and we’d meet for long soaking wet walks in the rain. We loved the feeling of getting drenched, but not feeling too cold. It was just such a relief after the heat of the day.

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But today I’m accepting this cool, wet weather as little gift from the sky in a different way; time to stay inside and catch up on some things at home. I love being outside, but I also love being at home. I did some yoga (of course) and some extra housework and even sorted out my emails, which I’ve been meaning to do for years. Literally, years.

I have the windows open, so I can hear the rain, and sense the moist fresh air from outside; I think it’s perking up my personal energy levels just by osmosis. Also, there really is something to be said for being cozy on the couch under a blanket while sitting by the windows and watching the raindrops fall outside.

So blessed,

Leah 

end of migraine.

What a relief! I just recovered from a migraine that had kept me in bed since Sunday…

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This is me, feeling happy that I could half uncover that eye this afternoon, knowing the end was in sight. I get migraines pretty often. Well, very often. But I can catch most of them early with medication etcetera and don’t often get knocked down for days a time. But when I do, I hate it.

I know I’m blessed to have medicines and a supportive family, and a comfortable bed. I appreciate my earplugs and eye mask to block noise and light, and I’m grateful for my Cefaly. It gives me amazing relief during migraines. I alternate between that and ice packs for my head and neck, but my best relief during a migraine is sleep.

Then, it gradually fades away… often leaving my poor head feeling tender; even a bit bruised. But emotionally, I feel a sense of fragile euphoria. Being up, and especially outdoors feels almost too good to be true.

This evening I meandered slowly down to the river just outside with my dear husband. We just sat there together on the riverbank, soaking in the peace and beauty of the sun on the water. I felt like I could really relate to Mole, in Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale,  The Wind In The Willows. He was so relieved to go outside into the spring sunshine after being stuck inside in the dark for so long; so was I.

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“…tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”

So blessed,

Leah 

hiking.

See that little wee blip on the horizon? That’s the skyscrapers in downtown Calgary!

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We went for a gorgeous hike today, about an hour from home. It was pretty amazing to get this perspective on our city. This picture was taken from the road up to the Moose Mountain trailhead, where we’d planned to start a hike going up above the tree line. Alas, there were at least a couple feet of snow covering the trail, and we weren’t equipped with snowshoes, so we had to come up with a Plan B. I mean, I guess we could have forced our way through, but other hikers had tried this and ended up coming back down after a few minutes of wading through thigh-deep snow. No, thank you.

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Not far off, we found a lovely ‘walk-in-the-woods’ hike. There was almost no snow left on these trails, and it was so warm that we found this very spring-y butterfly perching prettily atop a pussy-willow tree next to our path. We hiked up and down hills in a peaceful pine forest, enjoying a little extra spring in our step, courtesy of the mossy, pine-needle carpeted trails.

The moral of the story is, a change of plans can be a wonderful thing. Serendipitous.

So blessed,

Leah

 

cars.

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My husband and son like to talk about cars, just recreationally discuss them. They enjoy watching shows about cars on T.V., and going to car shows in real life. It’s fun for them to spend hours and hours messing around with cars, fixing them up just how they want them. The things that can be done to cars to make them do car things in better, louder, faster ways are endlessly fascinating to these two people I know and love.

I generally just tune out such talk and activity as background noise. They’re happy, that’s enough. On the rare occasions when my son kindly involves me in such conversations, I try to be a good listener because I love him. But I suspect that my eyes glaze over despite my best efforts. In short, I’m not a car fan.

That said, I am convinced that cars (and by cars I mean motorized vehicles of various kinds, including ambulances) have saved countless lives. And not just directly; how many places in the world are able to have necessary supplies on a regular basis because of trucks? And I don’t have to wonder how many people would miss out on countless experiences and opportunities without the ability to get from one place to another in a relatively short time, without cars.

I love the mountains, lakes, and beaches. I’m able to access such places to go hiking and camping only because of the invention of the automobile. I also love my grown children and sisters and parents and cousins and other relatives. I’m able to live hundreds of kilometres away from these dear people and still see them fairly often thanks to cars.

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Also, grocery shopping. Errands. Going to IKEA. Church. Dates. Late-night movies. Doctor’s appointments. Library visits that end with large stacks of books. Apart from vacations and extended visits with far-off friends and family, there are thousands of little, practical ways that cars make our day-to-day lives so much more convenient and comfortable.

Where I (and a lot of other people) live, most things are more accessible by such vehicles. People who don’t drive, whether out of necessity or by choice, still benefit from buses, rides in cars, and things being delivered to shops etc nearby, usually by truck or van. It’s how we get to the farmer’s market, the hospital, the bank, and the ski hill. And it’s how Amazon gets to us.

In my heart I sometimes yearn for the long ago or far away walkability of being able to get around without cars; I’m not going to lie. And when we lived in England, I enjoyed a lot more of that. But even there, castles in the country were easier to get to by car.  

Any way I look at it, I can’t get around being grateful for the blessing of cars. They help.

So blessed,

Leah 

 

city parks.

“In merging nature and culture the most successful cities combine such universal needs as maintaining or restoring contact with the cycles of nature, with specific, local characteristics.”
― Sally A. Kitt Chappell, Chicago’s Urban Nature: A Guide to the City’s Architecture + Landscape

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This afternoon my love and I took our bikes out for a beautiful ride along the river… It wasn’t as warm outside on the cycling path as I’d optimistically hoped, so I stopped after a few minutes to put on my light sweater jacket. And zip it up. A bit breezy. But that’s ok; I’m still feeling celebratory about venturing outdoors without mittens, or even gloves.

We pedalled east, along with the flow of the beautiful blue-green Bow River… and it didn’t take us too long (maybe half an hour?) to arrive at our destination; Prince’s Island Park. It’s actually right downtown, and all the people were out enjoying the spring weather along with the two of us today. Well-spaced out. (Thanks, COVID-19.)

We saw Canada geese (some of our nation’s most unfriendly inhabitants), other cyclists, dogs (making us wish harder for one), and people in bikinis (seriously) and hammocks, walking, sitting, and lying on the grass. I had a sudden urge to feel my bare feet in the warm grass, which is starting to show signs of turning green. It felt SO good!

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Country living is a dreamy ideal, a memory from my childhood, but not realistic for me now. Clearly, I’m not alone; most people live in cities. I really appreciate city parks that give us beautiful and free access to nature, even in the middle of urban places.

So blessed,

Leah 

wild roses.

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”

~J.M.Barrie~

…or, in my case, God gave me a camera phone so I can have roses in April.

In December, I have Christmas to cheer my heart. By late April, my soul is really craving green leaves, rosebuds, and fresh little blossoms.

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The snow is pretty well gone, but the ground is still mainly grey and brown where I live. I remind myself that spring has sprung when the days become longer; I try to focus on and celebrate the increasing daylight. This is necessary for me. I’ve learned by sad experience that March and April can find me feeling more than a little low if I wait for mild, greening weather too early in the year for where I now live.

So last summer I went outside by the river and collected these photos of wild roses, to tide me over until our short but sweet rose season is back.

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How pretty are they? And they not only look delicious, but smell so sweet I could drink the scent. It’s something I look forward to all year. I can just breathe in the rose-scented air and feel so refreshed. And I know I’m not alone in this adoration of roses.

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When we lived In England for a few years, there was a huge rose bush outside my kitchen window, in the back garden. The roses it grew were blush-coloured, and abundant. I’ll never forget the simple pleasure of standing at the kitchen sink and looking past the hideous orange and yellow tiles someone had unwisely decorated the backsplash with… to my bountiful bush of blooming beauties through the open window.

So blessed,

Leah