Hands in the dirt, strands of hair falling across my eyes… the smell of loam. 

Yes, I am getting excited about the gardening season.  The earth is still too hard and cold to work in this time of year.  So the best thing one can do in the PNW is plan.  And on airplane flights for work this week, I decided for some really dirty reading- the Territorial Seed Company spring catalogue.


And here I sit at SMF my flight 2 hours delayed, pondering what to write in my blog, and I decide on seeds. 

I don’t remember gardening from seeds very much when I was a child.  Maybe the random Mixed Spring Flower packet strewn around the yard, or some peas.  Mainly I remember buying starts at nurseries, and my father teaching me how to handle them delicately and place them in the ground.  That is for another story. 

But now, I find myself so excited about those tiny seeds.  About growing green from these miniscule hard nuggets.  Maybe it is something maternal- after having grown something from nothing in myself and experienced that mystery, I find even more joy in perpetuating something from virtually nothing and tenderly nourshing it.  I have also found more fulfillment in patience, care, and tending in recent years.  Thus, the prospect of setting up grow lights, watering, and carefully thinning little starts so that they may survive sounds joyful albeit tedious. 

In my dirty reading, I have probably been overly-ambitious in my circling of varieties.  Rubine brussels, Hopi Blue corn, Winterbor kale.  Wild garden lettuce, Violetta pac choy, and Minnesota Midget orange fleshy melon.  And the list goes on.  Of course, my mind floats and colors pictures of the spaces these little seeds will fill in their garden beds.  I have precisely no concept of what space a “sampler”, “packet”, or 1/2 oz. of seeds will ultimately fill in my yard with lush growth and produce.  This year will be an experiment.  Of new varieties, of the soil quality in my yard, of the time and care I can dedicate to tending these plants.  I am hoping to expand to growing in other venues as well- friends’ yards, guerilla gardening in abandoned neighborhood pockets.  I also hope to impart the joy of gardening and harvest to my young son.  The opportunities are endless. 

But back to seeds.  The start of it all.  If we are to make an analogy with humans, the seeds are somewhat like the embryo and the uterus all tied up in one, ready to expand and experience the world.  In fact, part of the anatomy of a seed is called the embryo.  This is where the new plant will start from.  Anatomy of a grain. Drawing by Margaret SavardSpatially, the embryo only takes up a small part of the entire seed.  Without it, the seed would be nothing.  Outside of the embryo, the endosperm of the seed contains energy for the seed to germinate and grow.  It often makes up the bulk of the seed, at least for grains.  We could think of it as the placenta.  Finally, there is generally an outer, harder covering to the seed, to protect it from the elements until it encounters conditions favourable to growth.  This is  called the seed coat.

above image of a cereal seed from Organic Agriculture Center of Canada Website, 2008.  Drawing by Margaret Savard. 

Seeds may seem dainty, but they are tough.  They are the part of the cycle of plants most reponsible for perpetuating future generations.  They must be thrown from trees, trailed along by animal fur, popped out of exploding calyces, pooped out of birds, or generally mistreated in order to find new space for growth of the coming young.  They must be patient, waiting for proper moisture and light to come out of their coats and explore and taste their surroundings.  Seeds are often overlooked and unappreciated- seen as little boondoggles.  But they are the next generation.

And thus, I look forward to receiving my box of seeds from Territorial.  To comparing their sizes and colors and feeling their shapes.  To placing them at their proper depths and spacings in starter containers or directly to my garden beds.  To watching them sprout, grow, encounter their environment, and ultimately produce themselves.  Ultimately, providing myself and mine sustenance.  For the love of seeds, I will get dirty.

Working with Wood

It was a stunning day in the city today.  Bone-chilling air, but a beautiful blue sky which cascaded into stars at night.  I spent the afternoon finishing the roof on a firewood shelter I had started on at a house-warming party a few months ago, during which friends helped with the shed-construction.


I haven’t worked much with wood before, but this didn’t seem to hard.  The first challenge I faced was remembering which bundles I had bought were shingles and which were shakes.  And then, what to do with each!  I think I actually ended up constructing the roof backwards, with the shakes on top of the shingles.  I will find out soon how it holds up.

When I would hammer in a nail wrong, I giggled.  I liked the rustic look I was giving my shed.  And that I could do this myself- a very basic project to make my home more, well, more my home.  I almost hoped my neighbors were peeking through their windows, wondering what their neighbor was up to.

It reminded me of the projects my father had built around our home growing up.  Our large backyard deck, turtle pens, a treehouse for me, garden beds, even a covered patio.  I don’t think I realized how much love and care he put into all those projects for our family.  I wonder if he really ‘knew’ what he was doing, or if he was winging it more, like I was.  He always loved book knowledge and plans, so my guess is that he pulled out construction books, graph paper, rulers, lists, and went to work.  I think he would smile if he saw what I was doing, and would put on some gloves to help out.


The shed will be finished off with a bamboo-curtain pulldown in the front to protect the wood from wayward winds (thanks to the idea of a friend).  The wood will be used to warm my home, and for an up-and-coming fire pit.  It will add a little bit of beauty and history to my yard, helping transition the house into a home.  One little project at a time.


Display Case

One of the most prominent pieces of furniture in my family home was a golden-green display case, decorated with antique hand fans.  It stood along the western wall of the living room, with the only other piece of furniture a near-challenger to its aura an ornate rocking chair. Old prom and homecoming pictures of my sister or I with our dates frequently showcase this display case in the background.  And it certainly cannot be missed in family Christmas films.

Once in a while, my sister or my friends and I would get a fan out and look at it.  Maybe fan with it for a bit, imagining what sultry woman in a far-away land may have done the same.  Then we would put it back.  I hardly knew the stories behind any of the fans.  But they were always there.

I did get to hear the tale of the display case’s becoming.  My maternal grandmother was on a Sunday drive with her beau in the 50s when she lifted up her shades and turned her head for a double-take.  She had to get it.  They turned the car around and sped up to a flea market, with an old case for sale for $5.  It needed some work.  They scooped it up and fell in love.  My grandfather added a place for beautiful glass shelves to the case.  He wired in light sockets to highlight the would-be contents along every shelf, and did a pro job with the wiring, eventually leading out the back of the case, so that it is completely un-noticeable.  My grandmother refinished the case to its antique-y hue, and together they added brass screen to the front doors.  I don’t know what they kept in it.

The case now resides in my house, miles away from its re-birth or the last stage of its life with my mother. For two months now, it has been sitting in my new home, practically empty.  My son put some random trinkets in the bottom- a dump truck, some halloween decorations, a stuffed animal gecko.  Today, I set up its glass shelves.  I cut the tape of the meticulously-wrapped cardboard packages and slid out surprisingly heavy shelves.  It was a bit of work to get them all set up myself, but I managed.  I knew what I would put inside, for now.  Books.  I haven’t had another good place to put them in my home yet, and they needed a home.

Now, the shelves are lined with Kingsolver, insect and bird identification guides, Spanish dictionaries, and adventure books.  A shade different that the fans of the past.  These books are just as intriguing, but they are knowable.  Meant to be handled, perused, absorbed, and enjoyed.  They may not stay there forever- I had intended for the case to hold scientific specimens, fossils, or the like at some point- but for now this is their home.  I like that they appear so precious.

*Forgive my terrible photographs, for now.  They are from my phone.  My Rebel got stolen in Baja a few years back, and can’t find the charger for the battery for my snapshot.



How many licks does it take….

Oh I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener!

Gimme a break, gimme a break…

Got milk?

No, I am not selling a product, but taglines stick.  I just changed my tagline for this blog,  from “glimpses into grief, compassion, and growth” to “glimpses into compassion, community, and growth”.  Talking with someone important in my life yesterday challenged me to think more about what my goal was with this blog.  This blog is my pin-up. It is what you, readers, will define me by.  While I have experienced immense grief during the last two years, and this is a topic I intend to write upon, my intention here is not to define myself through my past.  My past has shaped me, but what I want here in this blog, is to be present.


Live Each Day

“Live each day as if you were being give an second chance.”

Words from my mother to her highschool class as valedictorian.

I didn’t hear these words until after she passed.  My sister and I read them in her typed-up speech we found shuffled amidst old photo negatives, letters from friends, and sweepstakes entries.

It made us cry.

Welcome to my blog.  I hope to share part of my journey with you.  The past few years of my life have brought an enormous amount of  change.  Some changes that elicit tears and heartbreak, others that bring grins and serenity.  This blog will entertain journeys into my past and into my future, but most of all will focus on growth, challenges, and ideas of today.

Thank you for venturing in.