“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wisconsin Gardening

My Wisconsin garden is spring green in May

 I’ve spent the past week relocating our household to our summer home in Polk County, Wisconsin that we call Northern Bliss. Sailors forever, Gunter and I must have the serenity of water close by. We enjoy the change of pace from our city life in San Diego. There is another lake every four miles in our county, so we never lack the color of water. But after eight years sailing around the world, we also crave the color green.

I agree with John Burroughs, who said, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order.” While the green palette soothes my soul, the song of newly-arrived finches tickles my ears, the feel of warm soil running through my fingers connects me to the earth, and the heavenly scent of budding flowers brings me peace. I wet my lips and taste the freshness of the country breeze rustling through the treetops.

What happens to your body in the presence of green? Your pituitary gland is stimulated. Your muscles become more relaxed, and your blood histamine levels increase. That leads to a decrease in allergy symptoms and dilated blood vessels. In other words, green is calming and stress-relieving, yet invigorating at the same time. The color green has been shown to improve reading ability and creativity.

Aha! I’ve been gardening my first week here, exposed to all that green. Now that my creativity is back, I can get back to writing again. Before I continue the Uzbekistan travel series, I want to take you to my environment here. The days are getting longer. Sunrise was at 5:27 this morning and sunset will be at 8:48. On June 21, the summer solstice, first light will occur at 4:43 a.m. with sunrise at 5:21. Sunset will be at 9:02 with last light at 9:40. Plants love all that light so spring growth is intensive. I can almost see those ferns in my garden unfurling their delicate fronds.

Garden Ferns

Garden ferns unfurl as they mature

Did you know that fiddlehead greens are harvested as a vegetable? The fiddlehead fern fronds must still be tightly furled.

Martha Stewart even has a recipe for them! . Reportedly, they taste grassy (of course) but with a hint of nuttiness. Hmm. Many people say they taste like a cross between asparagus and young spinach. Some detect a bit of mushroom. Watch out for those if they’re growing nearby. Also keep this in mind: Fiddleheads can cause symptoms of food-borne illness if eaten raw or improperly cooked. Be careful.

Have a wonderful and inspiring spring!

 

 

 

Fiddler greens

Fiddler greens served as a restaurant delicacy

For related blogs, visit https://sailorstales.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/soft-focus/

and https://sailorstales.wordpress.com/2016/06/15/returning-to-northern-bliss-fifty-shades-of-green/

About the Author: Lois and Günter Hofmann lived their dream by having a 43-foot ocean-going catamaran built for them in the south of France and sailing around the world. Learn more about their travel adventures by reading this nautical adventure trilogy, now on sale at a reduced price for a limited time through Father’s Day.

Life stands before me like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes… -Carl Friedrich Gauss

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It’s springtime in the Northern Hemisphere and signs of spring flourish everywhere. I’ve just completed a spring “fresher-upper” of our San Diego condo. New paint does wonders! The most challenging part of the project? Re-hanging about 100 pieces of art and photography. We completed that task last week, just in time for Easter celebrations. I wore a new spring skirt to church, ivory-and-black with butterflies dancing at the hem. At home, I positioned bright yellow daffodils in every room.

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We have three blue-green eggs hidden in the hanging geranium plant on our patio. With the mother chirping and flying back-and-forth, I am fearful of disturbing the bucolic scene. But it’s wonderful to know that she is there and will take good care of her chicks.

Did you know that you can renew those New Year’s resolutions you failed to keep? Yes!! Spring allows you to start over again—it’s a season of hope, of new beginnings, and of second chances. Two of my resolutions didn’t work well together. I combined a huge writing goal with the desire to shed ten pounds. Sitting at the computer for hours on end defeated the weight goal; I gained instead. So now I’ve joined Weight Watchers® and this time, I’m serious.

With worldwide terrorism dominating the news, these words by Madeleine M. Kunin are comforting: “When all the world appears to be in a tumult…the seasons retain their essential rhythm. Yes, fall gives us a premonition of winter, but then, winter, will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring.”

Spring is also a growing season, and in all of nature, there’s a built-in desire to grow, to improve, to make it better, to make a difference. Above all, growing is my goal for the rest of the year, and I trust that it’s yours as well.

  

Happy Passover and Easter! This holiday weekend, I’m in a happy, yet contemplative mood. I look back on my New Year’s resolutions and while I’ve completed some, I’m still working on others. The promise of spring is that it’s still early enough in the year to make my resolutions and dreams come true. Or I can change my mind, push the reset button, and start anew.

What is spring to you?

To Emily Dickinson, spring was madness, and so she wrote this:

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown —
Who ponders this tremendous scene —
This whole Experiment of Green —
As if it were his own! 

T.S. Eliot, in The Waste Land wrote:

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.” 

To those living in America’s northeast or Europe’s north, this month must be especially cruel. One day keeps the promise of spring and the next brings winter back again. But nature is forever optimistic. Crocus buds shoot through the snow to toward the light. Bluebirds find a new (or old) home to birth their young. And pileated woodpeckers, squared off in a shouting match, call and drum, then listen for the other to respond.

10447874_10152272367081843_321612176003547025_n bluebird outside bird house from timeline

One cannot help but feel joyful in the spring. Even Hemingway, who was never the consummate optimist, said in A Moveable Feast:

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.” 

I know it’s spring when I have this innate urge to dig in the dirt. This week, I’m busy planting pots full of succulents, in keeping with California’s fourth year of drought. Getting down to earth, I close with Margaret Atwood in Bluebeard’s Egg:

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” 

I’m reminded that spring is here when I hear the birds chirping outside my bedroom. A pair of house wrens have a made a nest in my trumpet vine, protected under the eaves. They have only two babies to feed this year. Another couple perch on the balcony railing, chatting away—probably deciding where to build their own nest—until the new parents screech and chase them off. Possession is nine-tenths of the law.

P1080384 Baby birds

Spring is often the birth of new beginnings for Gunter and me as well. During the eight years of our circumnavigation, spring often brought the sailing season. It was during the spring of 2002 that we embarked on our longest voyage, from San Diego to the Marquesas Islands—twenty-one days at sea. “This will be a voyage of risk, of that I am sure, but I suspect it will also be one of renewal and reward,” I wrote.  I knew that we would never regret taking off to sea in our 43-foot catamaran, because I believed that we would eventually achieve our mission to sail around the world. And we did. It took us eight long, but rewarding, years.

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“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams,” said John Barrymore. Continuing to fulfill our dreams after retiring is what keeps us young.

Accomplishing much, whether it’s sailing around the world or something else, takes planning… and courage…and dreams. So I don’t fault the Kaufmans for wanting to achieve their dreams. But great gain also involves great risk. How much risk is too much is a question only they can answer. They had to suffer the setback of being rescued and sinking their sail boat, their home for eight years. That’s enough already. I wish them well.

How I love spring!

Even in San Diego, we do have the seasons. The signs of spring are subtle here, but they are evident: the days last longer; college students on spring break flood the streets with energy; and a pair of house finches flits back and forth, building a nest in my trumpet vine. My favorite sign of spring is flowers—they are blooming everywhere!

Gunter and I attended Orchids by the Sea, an annual rite of spring at the Scottish Rite Temple last Sunday. I was in heaven!  Orchids are my favorite flower.

First, I walked through the huge show hall, checking out all the displays. Elegant Phalaenopsis, moth orchids, cascaded like waterfalls from tall stems. Cymbidiums, commonly used for spring corsages and easy to grow as a patio plant in Southern California, were available in many of the booths. Miltonia, pansy orchids, were new to me. Vandas take up a lot of space and require full sun; that wouldn’t work for me. But I can grow Oncidiums. They require less humidity than other orchids. I love their tall, delicate stems and blossoms. By far the most stunning and sensual orchids are Paphiopedilum, lady’s slippers; they originate in the jungles of Indonesia.

Second, I attended a class on how to keep and fertilize orchids when they’re blooming and when they’re not. The lecturer repeated advice I often tell my friends: “Don’t worry about killing orchids. Buy them and just enjoy the bloom, which will last for six weeks.  You could pay for—and throw out—cut flowers three times and easily equal the cost of one multi-stemmed orchid. So try to keep the plant until it blooms again, but if it doesn’t, you haven’t lost a thing. Above all, don’t feel guilty!”

Third, I purchased an assortment of orchids for half price. Such a deal! I invite you to view my orchid show albums and my home display in the albums below:

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