Thursday, August 8, 2019

Neighborhood Musings

It's been two years since I discovered the concept of Neighboring and began trying to be a better neighbor. The hard, awkward work of knocking on doors and introducing myself to strangers who lived within sight of my own yard has eased into the easy comfort of calling neighbors by name and waving at each other every time we pass. I've learned to organize neighborhood events without much anxiety and look forward to spending time with the people on my block. As summer ends, I'm discovering the joy of being in intentional relationship with these neighbors of mine.

In my Neighboring training, I learned that having a pet, especially a dog, is a great way to connect with neighbors. People are more likely to stop and chat if you're with a dog. It's a "third thing", something other than yourself and the other person that you can talk about. This summer I've learned that this neighboring tip also works with pet lizards. I have a small lizard named Harry who is the class pet in my preschool room. Harry lives at school most of the year, but I brought him home this summer. He loves to be outside, so sometimes I set up his little wire fence, a sort of play pen for lizards, outdoors. The house next door is abandoned, much to the frustration of the neighborhood, but Harry views the dandelion strewn front yard as an all-you-can-eat buffet. I sit outside with Harry and read a book. Some days I don't get much reading done because neighbors stop to ask about Harry and we end up chatting instead. The adults are mostly mystified by the idea of a pet lizard, but the kids are delighted. They ask questions about him and tell him he's cute and ask if they can hold him. One ten year old neighbor girl is especially enamored with Harry. Early in the summer she rang my doorbell and asked if she could visit the lizard. I invited her in and we played with Harry for a while. The next day, she was back with a friend and asked to see Harry again. When she returned a few days later I realized that I was, essentially, hosting play dates for my lizard! This was not an aspect of Neighboring that I had ever imagined, but it has allowed me to get to know a great kid. Both Harry and my neighbor will be disappointed when he moves back to school.

My older daughter was in a summer theatre program this summer and had a small part in a musical. The rest of my family was out of town for opening night, so I invited one of neighbors to go to the show with me. We had a delightful time watching the show and spending some extra time together. It made me wonder what it would be like if a whole group of neighbors went to events together. What if we went to concerts or plays or sporting events as a neighborhood? I think it would be so much fun!

One of my older neighbors spent several days in the hospital recently. She insisted that her daughter call us, because she knew we would worry if we didn't see her around and then continued to call with updates. We've been friendly with this neighbor for years, but our friendship has moved to new levels with Neighboring. We've looked for opportunities to spend time with her and have had long conversations and in the process, we've become close enough that she asks us for help and looks to us for emotional support. We see her as a beloved neighbor and a friend. And that feels pretty good.

One of my neighbors across the alley loves to cook Southern food and she always makes extra. This summer she has started calling me when she makes collard greens or fried cabbage. She's in her 80's and doesn't get around well, but if I walk over to her house she'll hand me plates or plastic tubs of food. Tonight she and her husband drove over to deliver a pot of black eyed peas and foil wrapped cornbread, still warm from the oven, for my family's supper. I lived across the alley from this sweet woman for 16 years and never even knew her name. But once I found the courage to knock on her door and tell her who I was, she invited me in to hear the stories of her life. And now she brings me homemade food, because she knows the value of good neighbors.

I love how these small, everyday interactions with the people on my block continue to change me and change my neighborhood. Having authentic relationships with your neighbors is pretty amazing.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

American Death

lives in America
stalking his victims
in schools and stores
in festivals in clubs
churches and protests
searching constantly
for the next place
to strike.
doesn't wear
a black shroud
or carry a scythe
he wears t-shirts
and jeans
and dark glasses
and carries
an assault rifle
with stockpiled ammo
and you don't have to
see his face
to know that
he is White.
doesn't call out names
or beckon with
a bony finger
he just starts shooting
at school kids
Black men, Jews
little brown boys
terrified mothers
college students
random strangers
innocent bystanders.
rides a river of
online rants and
political dog whistles
the boiling oil
of White supremacy
navigating the slipstreams
of fear and
the unresolved anger
of not getting
what is deserved.
crosses out of
the underworld
and into ours
every few days
or sometimes hours
and lets loose
his unhinged wrath
and when he does
the politicians look
the other way
and mutter useless
thoughts and prayers
and the gun lobbyists
urge everyone
to buy more weapons
and live with
one finger on
the trigger
and the rest of America
watches with outrage
or grief or just
stunned numbness
at the never-ending
madness and
lives on.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Colorado Trip - Wildflower Love

It's no secret that I love wildflowers and have become ever more fascinated with them. I knew that I would see wildflowers in Colorado, but I never dreamed I'd see such a variety and in such profusion. It was truly Wildflower Heaven! I spent as much time as I could looking for and admiring flowers and identified 56 different types, and found more that were not in my guide. I took endless photos of flowers for my own pleasure and want to remember some of what I found, but maybe you'll enjoy them, too!

Ocean spray (Holodiscus dumosus). These were shrub-like plants that grew on rocky cliffs and were covered in tiny cream colored flowers.

Mariposa lily (Calochortus gunnisonii). These grew in the sagebrush covered land near our hosts' house and I went to visit them every day. They are graceful and delicate and my favorite flower find of the week. I just loved them!

Cow parsnip (Heracleum sphondylium). These are pretty much weeds, but kind of pretty.

Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare). Daisies are always so bright and cheery!
Tall pussytoes (Antennaria pulcherrima). These really do look like little kitty toes!

Alpine spring beauty (Claytonia megarhiza). I found these in the woods and thought, "Hmm... These look a lot like the tiny spring beauties I find at home in early spring, only bigger." Turns out that there is a reason why they're similar!

Richardson's geranium (Geranium richardsonii). These were also in the woods.

Bladder companion (Silene latifolia). These strange little flowers were just starting to bloom from their "bladders" near the mountain stream on our hike. Very strange and very cool little flowers!

Spotted saxifrage (Saxifraga austromontana). These tiny little polka dotted flowers grew on the forest floor.

Prairie sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris).

Blacktip senecio (Senecio atratus). I saw this in many places.

Sulpher-flower buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum). These bloomed in different colors, including neon yellow!

Blanketflower (Galliardia artistata). This was planted in our hosts' yard and bloomed in many other places, too. I love the colors of blanketflower!

Alpine thistle (Crisium scopulorum). Thistles are always interesting, if nasty to touch.

Butter and eggs (Linaria vulgaris). I found this on my last morning in Colorado. It's such a sweet flower!

Shrubby cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa).

Western golden ragwort (Senecio ermophilus). This was everywhere!

Mountain gumweed (Grindelia subaloina). I found this high up in the mountains.

Heartleaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia).

Pink pyrola (Pyrola asarifolia). These sweet little plants were growing on the forest floor.

Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata). These bright little flowers were everywhere, but difficult to photograph. My sister watched a hummingbird sip from the trumpet shaped blooms.

Wyoming paintbrush (Castilleja linariifolia). This bloomed in our hosts' yard and in many other places. I especially loved the contrast it made against sagebrush.

Horsemint (Agastache urticifolia). I found a whole field of this high up on the mountain.

Wild rose (Rosa woodsii). Blooming everywhere!

Scarlet globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea). This was in our hosts' yard.

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). I found these delicate little flowers along the forest trail.

Blue flax (Linum lewisii). I saw these several places, but especially in the high flower meadows. This grows in Kansas, but not as beautifully.

Tall chiming bells (Mertensia ciliata). These were growing over a mountain stream. So delicate and pretty!

Colorado blue columbine (Aquilegia coerulea). The ultimate Colorado flower!

Silvery lupine (Lupinus argenteus). These were blooming along the road high up in the mountains.

Subalpine larkspur (Delphinium barbeyi). Found in the flower fields high in the mountains.

Rocky mountain penstemon (Penstemon strictus). These grew everywhere!

Showy daisy/purple fleabane (Erigeron speciosus) These were also everywhere! Our hosts' backyard was full of them.

Green gentian (Frasera speciosa). These bizarre plants grow only leaves for years and then produce an enormous flower stalk that can be more than 6 foot tall! These were blooming thickly on the steep slopes near Gothic. There are strange and oddly impressive!

I love mountain wildflowers!!!