Expecting Frost: saying farewell to Garden ’14

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Today is sunny, windy and chilly.  The forecast today for the high temp is 52 degrees.  Presently, it’s 50 degrees.  High wind warnings are in effect for daytime hours and a light frost is expected for Litchfield County in the early hours of Monday morning.

I feel loathe to accept the cold and frost which marks the beginning of Heating Season and the end of Growing & Harvest Season.

I ordered 100 gals of heating oil which won’t be delivered until Tuesday morning.  The oil in my tank is so low I’m going to have to do without heat until that load of oil is delivered.

The day I ordered the oil the Five-Day reported that tomorrow the low temp was expected to be 35; the frost warning was added this morning.  The day I ordered the oil was on a day that was unseasonably warm and I was wearing sandals.  After I made the call,  I commended myself for ‘ordering ahead’ and for being ‘well-prepared.’

Whoops….

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Last of the Tomatoes

I’ve picked the last of the tomatoes and broke down the parent vines.  Some of these tomatoes are almost full grown; there are many the size of large and small marbles.

I have no idea what to do with all these green tomatoes.  I’m waiting for Inspiration!

I have friends all over town who are eating the green tomatoes I gave them last week.  I wonder if they’re as tired of fried green tomatoes as I am.

The parent vines are now in the process of turning into compost.  In my heart I thanked each and every one for their service and for giving me such a bountiful and tasty crop.

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Mexican Sunflowers

Up until May ’14, I’d never heard of Mexican Sunflowers.  I bought the seed package because the flowers were so brilliant.  I was looking for a flower that would draw bees and  I wasn’t disappointed; the bees were all over these flowers for the past 3 months.  I was also hoping the brilliant red flowers might draw humming birds but I didn’t see any, to my disappointment.

I’ve picked a few large bouquets of these flowers to enjoy inside and to spare them from Frost.

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Raspberries

For the past ten days I’ve been cutting back the canes that have no more berries on them as I pick from the canes that are still producing.  I estimate that by now, I’ve clipped 2/3rds of the total patch.  There’s probably 35 or so berries left to ripen.  I hope the Frost doesn’t kill them.

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Pumpkins, my bonus crop

These tiny pumpkins are the offspring of last year’s jack ‘o’ lanterns.  By the time I went to buy my jack ‘o’ lantern pumpkin last year there were only 2 pumpkins left and those tiny eating pumpkins, better suited for soup or pie than a jack ‘o’ lantern.  So, I had 2 tiny jack ‘o’ lanterns.  The ‘innards’ all went into the compost and 2 of the seeds from those pumpkins turned into vines this spring and produced more pumpkins for this season.  The first vine produced 2 pumpkins and then died.  The 2 pictured are from the 2nd vine, which is still producing flowers.  For today, anyhow….

Putting a garden away for the winter is a bitter-sweet occasion, with a longing for the warm and sunny days that have been and a dread of the cold and dark days ahead.  Looking forward to the next garden is hopeful and sweet, even though we’ve yet to have our first frost and then our first killing frost and so much winter to get through.

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Rainy Day, Oct 11, ’14

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Green tomatoes and one blue Morning Glory

Today is wet, chilly and gray.  That’s the all day forecast.  It’s perfect weather for sleeping-in and sitting on the couch wrapped in a comforter with a 3rd cuppa and a warm cat, watching the drizzle filling the air.  It’s not exactly raining, the air is full of fat and heavy water droplets.  The mailman just walked by; he appears to be covered with dew.

According to the 5-day, the weather will improve after today.  This is good news.  So far, we’ve yet to have a frost or temps lower than 40 degrees, which to me is wonderful considering that we’re heading for mid-October.

I’m still picking kale from my garden and have about 20 green tomatoes hanging on the vines as well as one tiny pumpkin.  I’m hoping for a few sunny days so perhaps the tomatoes and pumpkin will ripen further.  I’ve given away many green tomatoes to a friend with a large family who “just love” fried green tomatoes.  After one or two, I’ve had my fill and am happy to give them to a friend.  I’m still picking raspberries from the canes in my front yard.  A few more sunny days will see the end of those but while they’re coming, I keep picking.

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This little neighbor has been roving the neighborhood while his young owners are in school. She’s eaten quite a bit of my Kale. Good thing I have an overabundance!

I’ve had an abundance of garden vegetables, flowers and berries this summer for which I’m profoundly grateful.  I have an abundance of Tomatoes, Kale, Raspberries, Zucchini and Peppers in my freezer to keep me going in the winter months.  I also have an abundance of fermented kale, also from my garden.  It tastes somewhat like sauerkraut.  If nothing else, it will be good to add to soups that I’ll be making in cold weather.

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Soon this tiny pumpkin will be soup!

I’m almost ready for Frost.  Most of my houseplants are inside or have been brought to the porch outside the back door, waiting to come in.  I have coverings at the ready for anything left outside I may want to save from frost.

The predominant color of the foliage in my heavily wooded part of the world is a deep and dark green with patches of yellow, red and orange.  Grassy areas are vivid green —  because of today’s drizzle and because we had a cool and relatively damp summer the grass never got brown or stopped growing.  I’m waiting for more leaves to fall so I can collect some for mulch and add to my compost.  So far, there’s not an abundance of fallen leaves.

Today I plan to take advantage of this Rainy Day by settling down on my couch & curling up next to my warm cat for a good long read which will probably morph into a good long nap.

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I’ll be bringing in this begonia for the Winter.

Happy Autumn!

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Decorative Painting Projects Summer ‘14

Sept 29, ‘14

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Albert on Floorcloth

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Sunflowers DD, ’14.  Floorcloth, 7.5 x 5

I’m still working on this very large floorcloth and have settled some of the areas I’ve considered problems.  And yet, it’s still not finished.  Close, but no cigar….  There are still details, details, details….

I’ve been working on this cloth on the floor in a large open area in my living room/studio.  Albert likes it when I’m working on the floor and is usually in my face making a pest of himself or lying quietly by my side.  I normally work on a large table but this cloth is too large and bulky so I work on it on the floor.  It’s a good thing I’ve kept up with some of the yoga poses I learned years ago.  I sit on the floor, one leg tucked close to my body and the other stretched out and , bending from the waist, I lean forward and work on what’s in front of me as far as I can reach.  I enjoy the perspective of viewing my subject from above and making art where people viewing it will have to look down on it, while walking across.

This floorcloth was made in a sunny spot where the color is vibrant and intense.  It’s my hope that this art will bring sunshine into a corner of a house where  there is no window or sun.  The walls in the corner are made of stone, the overall color in the room is predominately stone gray.  The floor this cloth will be covering is gray cement.  A month or so ago I took the floorcloth to the country kitchen where it’s going to be.  I thought at the time that the color on it was good but was truly amazed at how all that gray in the walls seemed to suck out all the color from my floorcloth.  So, I brought it back home and have been working at intensifying the color.

For one reason or another, the installation day for the cloth keeps getting pushed back.  This is fine for me as I have more time to refine some of my ideas and work them out.

Before I began intensifying the color on the floorcloth I worked on this wooden box — an abandoned craft project — that someone gave me a few years ago.  I put the floorcloth in the spare bedroom for a week and painted this box.

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Sunflowers and Crows on Wooden Box

This box is finished to a stage where I can add a few details and call it done.  The crow’s eyes aren’t finished and I want to lighten the flowers a bit.  This was a ‘for fun’ project and was a great break from working on the floor.  I enjoy the motif very much and have some plans to use it further on another floorcloth.

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Chairs #1 and #2 of 5

This is a commission project.  The client is tired of Brown.  She wants blue, something light and airy.  The chairs are in a dining-area corner opposite the corner where the floorcloth is going to be. It took me quite a long time to work out a process for painting 5 chairs and then coming up with a design for the back of the chairs but that being done, I’m now halfway through Chair #2.

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Chair #1 – finished!

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Close-up, design on chair

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Sunflowers Sept 25, ’14

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Sunflowers ’14

Sept 25, ‘14

Another of my gardening goals for Garden ’14 was to grow a successful crop of sunflowers that were in full bloom by the end of August, for my birthday.  I’m pleased to report that my goal has more than been met.

I’ve had a plethora of sunflowers growing in front of the house and in the garden close to the house along the south side.  I’ve had a constant supply for bouquets of Sunflowers for more than a month.  I can see them blossoming from my windows as I work about the house.  The ones in front of the house grew higher than the raspberry bushes and I could see them from the street.  The ones along the side of the house I could see as I drove down the street in my car.  For a few weeks, before the inevitable slide of Summer into Fall, I felt like the Sunflower Queen.  At the peak of summer, when the days were warm and sunny, I enjoyed many moments standing in the midst of them – sun on my face,  bobbing bright yellow of sunflowers, the scent of earth and water and the sounds of buzzing bees.

I’ve grown sunflowers in recent years but nothing like I had this summer.  There are still some blossoming as I write, I can see them from where I sit.  I didn’t have good luck growing them when I lived on Culvert St mostly because of lack of space, poor soil and squirrel problems.  I didn’t have great luck growing them here on Brookside Ave last summer, mostly because of squirrels and a woodchuck.

This past early spring I read an article about the health benefits of eating sunflower sprouts.  I wasn’t so much interested in eating the sprouts as I was in how to grow them.  In the past I started my proposed sunflower garden by planting the seeds in the ground.  After I read the article on sprouting sunflowers I had the idea to sprout the seeds and when the sprouts were large enough, to plant them in the ground.

This is what worked for me this year, I think.

In early May I bought 3 packages of Russian Mammoth sunflower seeds and sprouted the seeds from package #1.  I sprouted the seeds in a flat dish on 2 layers of very damp – not wringing wet — paper towels with 2 layers of very damp paper towels covering them.  I made sure that the seeds had plenty of moisture without being drowned.  It took 3-5 days for them to sprout.  When those plants were an inch or so out of the shell, I planted them in soil in a windowsill planter.  After they were 3 or so inches high, I planted them in the designated patch.  In the meantime, I’d already begun sprouting the seeds in package #2 and continued this process throughout seed package #3.  After all the seedlings were planted,  I had sunflowers at various levels of growth.  As they flourished and blossomed, I’ve had sunflowers in continual bloom for many weeks.

Back in the day when I was working more hours and had more money, my constant supply of sunflowers came from the floral department in my supermarket.  If growing one’s own veggies (and flowers) is like printing one’s own money, the value of my recent sunflower bouquets has been like winning the lottery.  Now, if only I could figure out how to grow them all winter….

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Tomato Time

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Big, fat, heavy, juicy, tasty Big Boys!

Gardening season is on the wane.  Days are growing shorter and the slant of light isn’t as favorable to my little plot of land as it was in Spring and throughout most of the summer.  In closing down this season, I’m pleased to report that for me, this has been a most successful gardening season, particularly with the tomatoes.

I grew the bulk of my tomato crop in 5 huge plastic pots that were filled with fresh potting soil, old potting soil and much compost from last year’s gatherings of egg shells, kitchen scraps and toilet paper & Paper towel rolls and one tiny seedling per huge pot.

A few seedlings from last years seeds sprouted out of the compost I used in the big pots and not having the heart to kill them, I planted those in the ground.  All in all, I had 6 plants in the ground and 5 in pots.  The tomato vines that were planted in the pots grew strong and tall and started producing flowers and green tomatoes late in May.  By early July, the plants were so tall and the tomatoes so big and heavy they were bending the cages I’d put around them and sprawling on the ground.  The seedlings from last year grew strong and tall and overshadowed everything that was close to them.

I enjoyed many sunny mornings smelling the fresh smell of the deep green leaves as I watered them.  I’ve enjoyed watching the plants grow from tiny seedlings to healthy vines covered with tiny yellow flowers and tomatoes in every size and stage of their growth.

I’ve had an abundance of tomatoes since late July.  Instead of merely having some for me, some to share and none to put away for the winter, I’ve had plenty!  Plenty – an abundance! —  for me, plenty to share and 18 quarts of frozen tomatoes in my freezer!

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Sometime late this past Winter/early Spring, my mother expressed an interest in growing tomatoes on her patio in the up-coming growing season.   I gave her 3 tomato plants for Mother’s Day and volunteered to be her Gardener.

My mother is a Gardener from a long way back and has always maintained a garden for as long as I’ve known her.   When all 5 of her kids were small, she had a huge garden a short distance from the house in an intensely sunny spot in the center of a large, open field.  There were rows and rows of everything – tomatoes, squash, beans, cabbage, Swiss chard, cucumbers and up to 7 or 8 long rows of corn.  There were also hours and hours of planting, weeding, harvesting, preparing veggies for canning & freezing & so much more.  In a corner of the garden was a huge composting area.  The value of Gardening & the benefits to body, mind and soul was instilled in me from a very early age.  When her children started leaving home, mom’s gardens gradually became smaller.

As mom got older, she had her garden moved to the end of the back lawn.  It was a small garden but enough for her needs, now that my father was gone.  It was also closer to the house.  As she became even older, that small garden got to be too much.  She stopped gardening a few years ago and that garden reverted back to field.  So, when she expressed an interest in growing tomatoes on her patio, I was pleased that she wanted to try and glad to help.  We also grew lettuce and kale – not in huge quantities but enough so before lunch she could say to me “Run out to the garden and pick us some lettuce.”   Or, in a phone conversation, “I went out to the garden and picked some kale for my supper last night.”  These words thrilled me, this is ‘old’ mom, not mom who’s now old.

Mom’s tomatoes didn’t do as well as mine because her patio doesn’t get as good sun as my tiny corner of garden off the back porch of my house.  But, hers did thrive and they did produce and they are enough and I’ve had plenty of my own to spare and share.  We’ve shared quite a few of her tomatoes these past 6 weeks, in tomato and mayo sandwiches, of which neither of us ever tire & will miss sorely when the growing season is past.  The growing, harvesting and consuming these tomatoes has been a focal point for us, something we share in common, something that,  from the tending and the nurturing & consuming, has undeniably brought us closer together & has given us a sense of comfort and even joy.  Something that shows we’ve always been close together, just never realized it….

We’ve spent quite a few hours on her patio this past summer tending the tomatoes and getting lost in conversation about past gardens, past events and people who are gone.  We discussed current events in the family, our community, the world….

Yesterday, in the sunlight and early afternoon almost autumnal shadows,  we discussed how we’d garden differently on her patio next growing season.

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This and That July 28, ‘14

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Cast iron Parrot with pink wings

Down-sizing:
For the past few weeks I’ve been filling bags with things to donate to a Thrift Store. Creating piles of books and other things to go to friends. I’m in the Process of Down-sizing, of Letting Go….
Many years ago I helped a woman when she felt she needed to down-size. It made her sad to let things go that had meaning to her and that she’d carried with her through her long life. In some ways, my scaling-down the number of things I’m carrying with me is making me sad, as well.
In other ways, having less stuff is free-ing and I’m enjoying the freedom of less things.
One of the things we did to ease my friends letting-go-pain was to photograph some of her dearest treasures so she’d have the photos to look at after the things were gone. Keeping that time in mind, I’ve followed my own advice and have photographed this dear treasure of mine. I’ve decided to give it away – to someone dear — and it’s hard for me to let it go.

This is a cast-iron Parrot. When I first met it, it was green with pink wings. In my mind, it’s still green with pink wings and I don’t really see that the paint is thin and worn with rust is creeping in.

The Parrot is a paper weight and was a constant fixture for many years on my grandfather’s desk in his office in a small room on the 1st floor of my grandmother’s house. My grandfather was the managing editor of a local daily newspaper as well as a feature writer for the Sunday magazine. He also reviewed books for a variety of publishers as well as writing advertising copy for local businesses. He was a busy man, always writing. He was given this paper-weight/Parrot as a small gift from a local Foundry where he’d free-lanced, writing advertising copy.

I was small when I was first allowed to play with this parrot. Apparently I’d played with it when I have no memory because one thing I recall is that most every time it was rewarded to me to play with I was always admonished “Don’t throw it!”

For a little guy, he’s kind of heavy.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was little. I was the first grand-child and they were willing baby-sitters which also helped-out my parents who were having more babies.
I spent a lot of time with my grandfather in his study. He’d set paper and pencils down on the floor for me and I’d spend hours drawing pictures and making up stories about what it was I was drawing. At some point, I’d be rewarded for my being so good by being allowed to play with the parrot. I loved playing with the parrot and the memory of the drawings and the stories and the fond attention of my grandfather.

There came a day when my grandparent’s made the decision to down-size, to sell their house and move South. That was a time filled with the bitter-sweet of nostalgia and an enormous amount of the pain of Letting Go. When all was done and all my grandparent’s had to do was put their suitcases in the car, hand over the keys to the Realtor and go, I went to see them one last time in the old familiar house – which was empty and filled with strange echoes — and to see them off to their new life. My grandfather told me he had something he wanted me to have, reached into his pocket and handed me the Parrot, advising “Don’t throw it.” I still remember the lump in my throat and the sting of tears in my eyes as well as the familiar comfort and warmth of his all-encompassing hug.

To me, the Parrot is a tactile and visual memory-bank of my grandfather in his study; his warmth and caring – of all he was and is to me. It’s also a memory bank of the decades it’s been in my life since the day my grandfather entrusted it to me and moved South.

Fare forward, little Parrot and fare well….

A First….

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The First Zucchini from my garden. I’m hoping it’s the first of many. It was absolutely perfect in every way. Great texture, great flavor, no GMO’s, not too big or small – just right! It’s been a pleasure to grow the plant from a tiny seed and come up with this result. I’m hoping to have plenty to freeze and eat later this winter. I’ve also had my first cucumber and pepper. Now, I’m anxiously awaiting my first Tomato!

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Not the end of the world….

(I had many photos to share but WordPress doesn’t seem to allow that any more….)

“The Real Work”
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
~~ Wendell Berry
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“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” ~Picasso

July 7, ‘14
I came to a place more than a month ago where I emotionally ‘hit the wall.’ Moments after the crash, which felt physical, as if a sudden traffic accident, my phone rang – a friend, calling out of the blue….
I was still gasping for air from the sudden impact of hitting the wall. I answered the phone not knowing who it was because I’d also misplaced my glasses and couldn’t read the screen on my phone. From the ringtone, the caller had to be one of 4 people, all welcome, any one of whom I could talk to about my present state of mind. I told him about my sense of having crashed after hitting an immovable object at for
He told me that it wasn’t the end of the world.
I asked; just because it feels like the end of the world doesn’t mean that’s actually true?
No. This is not the end of the world.
I needed that reality check; for awhile, to me, it felt like the end of the world.
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While I’ve been healing from the crash, sorting out the debris and making decisions about what goes where, what stays, what goes etc. I’ve been truly gladdened by my gardening efforts and another commissioned floor cloth. Once more, time after time, I’m reminded that Process is our/my most important product.
Garden: For such a tiny plot of land, I’m growing many things. The tomatoes are my focus, followed by Kale, carrots, beets, 2 hills of stringbeans, 1 burgeoning zucchini plant, 1 burgeoning butternut squash plant, 1 burgeoning cucumber plant, lettuce, arugula, parsley, 3 pepper plants and a few Swiss Chards. The season for peas is over and from the 15 seeds I planted in a window box container, I got 2 meals-worth peas. I also got a lot of knowledge about growing peas. In the future, I will grow them in the ground so the roots can go deep and the vines grow high. The 2 meals worth of peas tasted great. I cooked some but ate the rest straight from the pod.
The tomato seeds I planted and cared for since they were tiny wisps of seedlings are now muscular and assertive plants with thick and high stalks , healthy green leaves and many flowers and baby tomatoes. Having had such good luck growing tomatoes last year I planned to grow 5 plants in deep containers and hopefully have enough to put some by for the winter. I was unable to give away all of the seedlings I didn’t need, so they’re planted in the ground in the border garden I created at the edge of the sidewalk that surrounds my side of the house. There are also several ‘volunteers’, tomato plants growing in with the peas, that have sprung out of the compost from last year that I stirred into the soil for this year’s crop. So, plus the 5 growing Big Boys in containers I have 8 more Big Boys growing in the ground, all healthy and strong and also bearing flowers and fruit.

Sunflowers: For many years I’ve planted sunflowers in the hopes that by the end of August I’d have sunflowers for my birthday. For many years, my hopes have been dashed with the exception of a few scraggy sunflowers 3 years ago when I lived on Culvert St.
I’ve learned how to foil squirrels from digging up and eating the seeds by first sprouting the seeds and planting the sprouts when they’re strong. Apparently the squirrels aren’t as interested in sprouts and this method has worked well – so far. I have sunflowers planted in patches alongside the house where they get maximum sun and in many other areas in the garden where there’s a spot for them. I’ve planted a half dozen near the cucumbers in hopes that the cucumber will grow up the stalks. It’s too soon to tell if that will actually work, but I like the idea and will be watching with interest.
Raspberries: the raspberry patch growing in the front of the house is thicker this year and with the amount of small berries that are showing already, I may have as good a crop as there was last year. Early in the spring I cut out all the plants and trees growing in that patch to make room for raspberries so not only does it look neater, it’s also made room for more brambles and more berries. There was a lot of milkweed growing in the raspberry patch and I left those, hopefully they’ll be discovered by bees and Monarch butterflies. Across the sidewalk, on the other side of the front garden, I have a small patch of blackberries that will be soon ready for picking.

Floorcloth, Sunflowers on Blue:

7’.5” x 5’
This is one of the largest floor cloths I’ve ever done. It will cover and entire area in an existing pantry in a dark corner where there’s little natural light. I’m in hopes this will brighten up that corner, a bit. My client likes a similar floorcloth that I designed for myself years ago so I’m now doing one for her using the stencils and leaf patterns I made for me. Every now and then on this larger version I’ ve made larger sunflowers to make the overall pattern more interesting. I saved myself a lot of trouble and bought a quart of pre-mixed blue paint for the background and also bought a paint roller to save the time it would take to apply it with a 4” or 5” brush. At this point, it’s mostly done – after a few hours working on some details. I’ve found it easier to work on it flat on the floor – kind of a reverse Michaelangelo…. I’ve read of his discomfort with having to work many hours painting on a ceiling and know of my own discomfort from so much time working on the floor.
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When I read the Wendell Berry poem a few days ago I had a moment of Acceptance and understanding that gave me a measure of peace and comfort.
I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing and accept that where I am and what I’m doing is my real work, my real journey. My mind is certainly baffled, and I can testify to the fact that it’s highly ‘employed’. The song from my impeded stream is loud and clear and offers me much hope.

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