Category Archives: Mother Nature

Ode to the Ginkgo Biloba tree and to her leaves

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Gingko biloba trio in Mariemont Park, in Morlanwels-Mariemont (Belgium). Photo by Jean-Pol Grandmont, via Wikimedia Commons.

I was very happy to hear great news from dian today. She’s signed two book contracts in less than six weeks! Congratulations, dian! This is her favorite ode from her book of “odes to common plants,” honoring an ancient and beautiful tree that embodies romance, mystery, and magic for so many of us. ENJOY!
— S.K.

 

Ode to the Ginkgo Biloba tree and to her leaves

Now it comes to me that you fan-shaped leaves right in front of the Hermann’s house, in Brooklyn on New York Avenue next door to my old house cause we had a parking sign pole instead of a tree and there were those leaves now I know were from a Gingko Biloba tree—fell yellow. I didn’t know your name then or why your golden fall lobed leaves, like tiny Japanese paper fans, fell differently than the Giordano’s maple tree. Now feeling the fresh fall air just reminiscing about you. You are not like the maple, the sycamore, or the sweetgum tree. Thinking of always seeing you in yellow fall on the avenue with your parted cleavage scattering in sheer fall camisoles with one missed blouse button and though you are classy, you are from a street tree, a living fossil 350 million years old making you the oldest tree on earth from the era of dinosaurs. You are the earliest of my leaf-time memories of not thinking you were really a leaf.  You Ms.—silver apricot—maidenhair tree, every leaf brings me right back to you.

— dian parrotta

 

Image preview

Ginkgo biloba Fallen Leaves, taken at Tyler Arboretum, Media, Pennsylvania by Derek Ramsey, 2007 via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Dian is a proud alumnus from the State University of New York’s Stony Brook University which had taken her for the first time away from Brooklyn. She also holds an M.A.T degree from George Mason University and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Lindenwood University. She enjoys writing about the health benefits of eating delicious dandelions, broad-leaf plantain, purslane, garlic mustard, common nettle and the very tasty pigweed.  She harvests words into odes that celebrate the common plants, trees, shrubs and roots. She does dream to retire from teaching after 30 years at a local high school within the next year or so to join her two sons, who are both living in Prague and in Madrid, Spain. She says she wouldn’t mind spending her retirement writing garden, flower and plant poems.

 

 

 

 

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Free “Petunias” Sept. 4th and 5th!

Hello beautiful gardeners,

My memoir is FREE today and tomorrow on Amazon (downloadable ebook)!
Take a look, tell your friends.

Thanks!

With LOVE and gratitude,
Sandra

november-19-final-green-2018

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Please Don’t Piss on the Petunias—a Memoir

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My memoir is coming out this month!

Yes, I know. I announced that it was coming out “soon” in JUNE (over six months ago). This baby is late, very late. As some of you know, I’m a self-taught publisher. Over the last eight years, I’ve published six issues of Greenwoman, a YA novel (Zera and the Green Man), a book of short stories (Fifty Shades of Green), a few e-books, and many articles and posts. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with many talented writers of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. I’d published so many things, but I’d never published a memoir—so here, once again, was another huge learning curve.

I thought I had all the material, all the stories I’d written over the years, and it could be easily put together. Oh, ha ha—wishful thinking! Luckily, my daughters (thank the heavens for them, always bringing me back to reality and keeping the bar set high) told me that the first draft was too incomplete and too inconsistent.

Those were not words I was hoping to hear.

My daughters urged me to rewrite several of the stories in past tense. A significant undertaking.

Then I discovered that the book, about our menagerie of pets over the years (among other things), really needed a story about our dog Chancho.

More importantly, the book needed an “origin” story.

That story took another month of writing, but first I had to time-travel back twenty-five years. (And let me tell you, time-travel is not easy!) The process was difficult emotionally, reliving those days, the tough times back in the early days, before all the fun started with raising kids, chickens, and a garden. Andy and I were just starting out in business and in parenthood, paying student loans and the mortgage on two houses for an entire year, living paycheck to paycheck (having to borrow money at times from his brother Danny to keep the utilities on), as Andy worked seven days a week to fix up a beautiful yet humble home with (finally) a space to garden . . . Oh, and did I mention I was pregnant with Lily and we had no health insurance?

I wrote the origin story. We went over the manuscript, again. And then again, reading it aloud this time and making over 600 more editing changes.

Two days ago I received what I hope will be the final proof. One more fine-tooth comb reading and a only a few (I hope!) minor edits.

I was reminded: Anything worthwhile takes time and thought and care. More than you imagine!

But today, finally, a sneak peek! Here she is. Almost born!

(Consider this an invitation to the baby shower.)

6x9_Cream_280-PETUNIAS-FINAL-KDP_edited-3

Now for the backstory on the title, because some of you might remember that it was going to be titled The Chicken Chronicles. A good friend alerted me (thank you, V. G.!) that there was already a memoir with that title, by the illustrious Alice Walker (the Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Color Purple). Her book was also about chickens. So . . . I had to think of another title. Not easy, as that was my “working title” for years.

For a while I was stuck on Mother Hen . . .  but no one seemed thrilled about that one, and the only male beta reader (hello, Geno!) gave it a thumbs’ down in appeal to male readers. A clever friend (again, G. V.) , suggested a few alternatives. Her favorite was Chicken Scratches, which had its charms, but as I always prided myself on good penpersonship, it didn’t connect with me the way it needed to.

Sidenote: Wow, while writing this, I just thought of another title . . . Clucked Up. Ha ha! Maybe that will be the title of the sequel! Goodness knows there have been many more challenges and harrowing adventures this last decade— and especially these last two years!

Anyway, back to the subject at hand: One day I was rattling off title suggestions to Lily, including “Please Don’t Piss on the Penstemons,” the original title of one of the stories about our dog, Broonzy, and his destructive puppyhood. The back story on that title is that it’s a play on the old book/movie title Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, a work I’d never read, but I remembered vividly from childhood.

Lily said, “I like that one.”

Image result for please don't eat the daisies

I said, “I do too, especially the alliteration, but . . . I don’t know. It has a swear word. And I think there are a lot of people who don’t even know what penstemons are!”

Lily said that readers could look up penstemons—and that it wasn’t a big deal about “piss.”

I still thought it could be a dangerous move, a title with both “penstemons” and “piss,” so I decided to change penstemons to another “p” flower. What would sound best? We asked friends their preference: poppies, pansies, petunias or peonies?

“Petunias” won.

Now, to take a look at “piss” (ha). I researched: “book titles with swear words.” It seems that it can actually help sell a book these days!  Who knew? I brought it up to a media-savvy friend (hello, Mary Ellen!) a decade older than I am. She was, to my surprise, very enthusiastic. She said, “Our book club chose to read The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu  because of the title. Do it, Sandy!”

Still searching for a bit more reassurance (this was a big move!), I brought up the subject of swear words in book titles in Facebook-land. My mother immediately commented that she would never have a book with a swear word in the title on her coffee table! (Protecting the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you see. I didn’t even disclose what the colorful word would be, but she was against it.)

So “Piss” it was!

The book is very sweet (and only slightly pissy). More than anything, it is a love letter to our home and garden, our family, and Nature.

I hope you’ll make a note to buy a copy this month. I’ll let you know when she is born!

With much love and appreciation to all who have helped bring yet another dream to fruition,

— Sandy

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Strawberry Fields Betrayal

The post below is from a local woman I greatly admire. Sue Spengler’s a local middle school teacher who for many years ran her own school. She’s so many things to many people, one of those members of society who adds intellect and heart and sparkle every day of her life. She is also one hell of an activist. This year (and last year) she’s been very involved in trying to save one of our open spaces, a park  right next to the mountains where the people of Colorado Springs can hike, bike, and enjoy Nature.

What she worked to save this land from was a billionaire (x 10.5), by the name of Philip Anschutz, who moved to our city some years ago. He bought the only local daily newspaper, bought a famous 5-star hotel (The Broadmoor), bought several of our biggest tourist attractions, like the Cog Railway that takes a couple of hundred thousand people up to the top of Pikes Peak every year, and Seven Falls (another attraction) . . . and then decided that wasn’t enough. He wanted our public park that happened to be right next to his hotel.

I don’t know how exactly the deal went down. He owned some land that the public was already using on a daily basis for hiking, so his lawyer-minions finagled a “swap”: The land (that we were already using and which would have created a public relations nightmare if he took from the public) in exchange for some pristine parkland that he wanted as place for picnicking and pony-riding for his rich hotel guests.

I don’t know what kind of razzle-dazzle went on to make the people of our city (who are supposed to be in charge of protecting our parks and our properties) make a swap/deal with this billionaire. But once word got out, the taxpayers, the people who have lived in Colorado Springs for many years, even for generations, became furious. How dare they swap our land without a public VOTE? These are our PARKS!!! They belong to us ALL!!! This has been a public park since 1885!

A group got together, and protested publicly, making their voices heard. To no avail. There was nothing to do but gather the money and sue. They did, and they lost (a District judge named Michael McHenry ruled against the people of our city). And so the people appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

This week we got word that the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal.

— SK

Now that you’ve heard the backstory, here’s Sue’s “Master Plan”:

* * *

“Panorama at Strawberry Fields” from KRCC.org

 

Well, heck, I finally did it. It took me all day. I’ve been crafting a letter to the editor about the North Cheyenne Canon Master plan in my head for weeks, trying to figure out how to pare it down into something digestible and understandable, when the Plan itself is a 130-page behemoth of a hodgepodge of ideas with no real substance that is basically a “blank check” of plans with nothing specific — it just has a “tool box” of things that they can choose from if/when they’d like, including: paving Gold Camp Road (so shuttle buses can drive on it), closing Mesa Avenue to only Broadmoor shuttle buses, closing down all the pullout parking at the picnic areas along S. Cheyenne Creek and making people walk in from a brand new trailhead/parking lot, and closing S. Cheyenne Canon Rd to all traffic. There ARE some good trail ideas up around Stratton Open Space, and plenty of carrots for our high-level mountain biking community (making the Chutes downhill only, e.g.), but overall, it’s a plan with a premise of: “How can we cram more people IN?” (yes, it includes a “Marketing Plan”… !!), instead of a plan with a premise of: “How can we make our city park great for the people we serve?” Anyway, I finally sat down to write my letter today. But what came out was a poem…

My Master Plan

I sit with my notebook and write at a wobbly,
splintery picnic table, one of many under
this public pavilion.  At least some underpaid
city employee was told to paint them brown.
Through the scrub oaks, I see:  four
old ladies with hiking poles and sun hats,
three hardcore mountain bikers, a snake
of multi-generational hikers, two deer grazing,

a young couple from Palmer Park stringing
up a hammock, an elder couple with binoculars,
a mother and teenage daughter looking for a trash
can in which to place their pooch’s poop.

I scramble up a short social trail to the mesa
above the pavilion, and there it is: a spectacular
view of Strawberry Fields, where King Philip
plots his Broadmooresque stable and bbq party venue.

Up here, I watch a hawk hover, hear a bluebird
call, and discover a decomposing coyote.
Below, in the south canyon, I watch white whales shuttle
up and down, as a blaring ambulance struggles

upstream towards Seven Falls. The trails
on this wild and unnamed mesa below Mt. Cutler
are slated to be closed in the new Master Plan —
a plan meant to deflect from the city’s neglect.

What should a Master Plan have?  What does a City Park need?
Closed public roads? More trailheads and parking lots for tourists?
Private-public partnerships where somebody profits?
Ideas that will never be funded because we can’t even afford to take care of what we’ve got?

Nah.  What we really need is simple and more cost-effective than that:
picnic tables made from those newfangled recycled weather-resistant materials
pullout parking areas that make the creek and its coolth easily accessible to all
trail systems that respect and reflect the needs of the locals who use them
a limited number of cars, but only during peak summer weekends
a regular maintenance crew to keep the picnic areas beautiful
friendly city park rangers to enforce the rules
a budget that reflects our values
trash cans near picnic sites
clean, open restrooms
and above all else…
that playground
you promised
the children
in 2003,
but never
built.

 

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Bee Mine

If you haven’t seen this video yet, it’s a bee-youtiful story. ❤

When Fiona Presly found an injured bee in her garden, she took her in and helped her live out her life. The bond that she and “Queen Bee” developed —  so soulful!

Here’s a link to where you can learn more about saving bees.

And here’s another story, from Scotland (where Fiona lives) on her Bee friend.

It’s amazing to me how scientists are “scratching their heads” – can’t they see and feel our interconnectedness, the intelligence in all things, and know we can communicate?

Sigh . . .

— SK

 

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Autumn Days Come Quickly . . . (and an update on my memoir and garden)

 

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Colchico d’autunno” (Autumn crocus), taken on 23 September 2006 in Limana (Valmorel) Italy, by Enrico Blasutto. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor.
 —Irish proverb

For weeks, friend and Flora’s Forum contributor Virginia (Ginny) Gambardella and I have been sending emails back and forth about my upcoming memoir, a collection of “Stories about raising kids, crops, and critters in the city” (actual subtitle). For those of you who have forgotten, this is a book that I thought was very close to being ready to be published . . .  in June! (Ha ha ha, she laughs, the frustration showing a little.) The Chicken Chronicles, which is no longer going to be titled The Chicken Chronicles (more on that in an upcoming post), has undergone a round with beta readers, a semi-pro editor, and a professional editor. I’ve also been working on the cover. Now the manuscript is back in my hands for a final rewrite. I’m adding a much needed “origin” story to the beginning of the book, I’m also rewriting the Introduction, and making a few other adjustments.

Creation can sometimes take (so much) longer than we expect! 

Absorbed in this work and other concerns, the connection to my garden has been very different this year. For the first time in over 25 years, I decided to take a break, to “let it go” in a big way. At first, I felt shame and disappointed in myself. I wasn’t doing “what I was supposed to do.”

It took me a while to realize: Who is the creator here, anyway?!

Now, several months later, I’ve learned that the things we love the most can become yet another master. This is not how it is supposed to be! Gardening (to me) is not meant to be about control, but about joy, about communion

This disconnecting from the garden, painful at first, taught me valuable lessons, and it’s still teaching me. As I kept my distance, all the beautiful creatures who rely on this space for food and shelter and a place to raise young (a significant amount of pollinators and birds!) were not affected negatively by my decision whatsoever! On the contrary, they have been happier than ever with the wildness and the extra weeds in bloom! I have seen more hummingbirds, more goldfinches, more bees of many species, than I ever have before.

Video: ‘American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) Pair Feeding on Sunflowers,’ by Katja Schulz, National Botanic Garden, Washington, DC, USA. 9 July 2010, via Wikimedia Commons

 

THIS is also what gardening is about. Discovery! 

Wow. That’s a long way to getting to the point of this post: Ginny informed me that September 1st is actually the first day of fall! (Not astronomically, but in accordance “to the meteorological definition of seasons, which is based on temperature cycles and the Gregorian calendar.”)

Did you know that?

I thought autumn officially began with the equinox, which this year in the northern hemisphere arrives on September 22nd. Of course, there are some leaves changing colors and falling here in Colorado, and the nights are cooler, but it feels like “late summer.” And, of course it is (I’m just now getting some ripe tomatoes!). And yet . . .  it isn’t.

The fact is, time is relative. Oh, and here’s the informative link Ginny sent me.

We all have our own timetables, for learning and growing. 

And, it’s an in-between time for sure.

Looking forward to the harvest season (and all that “harvest” means!), and wishing you a happy 3rd day of fall. ❤ 

— SK

 

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Monthly Museletter – August 2018

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“Lunar Libration” by Tomruen, via Wikimedia Commons

Hello everyone!

Karla sent me her wonderful newsletter well over two weeks ago, yet I’ve only now published the bits that I feel connect the best to the Flora’s Forum audience. For this delay, I apologize.

I also had a realization. Instead of going through the whole newsletter and creating an online version once a month . . . why not just parcel out these videos, quotes, book reviews and other interesting tidbits, through the month and post more often?

(Why didn’t I think of this before?)  I think it will be more fun to do a few posts throughout the month, and then I won’t be late, and perhaps you won’t be overwhelmed with too much content at once.

That is what I shall start in September. For now, the last Museletter!

(Today, I’m especially excited to share “The Death Cafe” video, which I found to be both heart-wrenching and beautiful.)

Thank you, Karla, for once again sharing your Wisdome News!
❤ —SK

P. S. If you’re from Colorado Springs and would like Karla’s full newsletter that includes local events, you can write her at karlaann45 @ gmail.com.

Love to you all,

Sandy

* * *

“The smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect. It means I appreciate what I’ve been blessed with. I choose to be happy.” —Charles Schulz (Peanuts creator)

Designed with the Earth in mind, the gentle washer, Monono (Japanese for “empathy for all”) washes the equivalent of 12 tees with 5 minutes of hand-cranking, uses no electricity, fossil fuels, or dry-cleaning chemicals, and much less water than our washers (only 18 liters).

Two Colorado College students who came to Death Café last winter made this 10 minute documentary film. Everyone’s welcome to join the conversation; FMI contact Susan Coffey goingmywaydeathcare (at) gmail.com.


Also pertinent: THE GREEN BURIAL GUIDEBOOK by Elizabeth Fournier (2018) is in libraries now. It includes information about non-toxic “green embalming fluids” and alkaline hydrolysis, a non-fiery way of cremation that produces earth-friendly cremains.

Sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith of Appalachia Rising sing “Resilient.”

“Realigned and on point,
Power to the peaceful,
prayers to the waters,
Women at the center,
All vessels open to give and receive,
Let’s see this system brought down to its knees.”

You can read more about their music here.

What are “STRANDED ASSETS” & why do they matter? They appear to be a mirage, a Ponzi scheme on the part of big oil/coal/gas companies.

A wiser approach?
“The biggest problem for the climate change fight isn’t technology — it’s human psychology.”

Ecological oyster shell “living shorelines” restore habitat and build up beach edges!

Good News for Colorado! 
Sierra Club got Denver mayor Michael Hancock to commit to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030. 

Shea Moisture (established 1912!) is an ethical, fair-trade, family-owned, women-supporting business that will leave you soft, clean, and smelling great!
(I love their Peace Rose soap!)

Another by Charles:
“All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” —Charles Schulz

BRILLIANT!
Biologist Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry movement champions the idea that we should take cues from the natural world, because what better teachers exist? This hour presentation, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, is worth listening to — the only thing that would make it more exciting is if we could see the pictures she sees.

A final note from Karla:
“I’m ‘guerilla gardening’ golden raintree seeds in alleys & empty lots in memory of my little sister Elise Marie Clarke. Soon I’ll harvest bee plant seeds to scatter around on my morning walks, then marigolds, cosmos . . . To me, SEEDS are symbols of the ‘unstoppability of Life’.”

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (Seedling), via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (Seedling) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

* * *

 

Until next time . . .

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