Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree
Summer 2024

 

Blooming in Place

by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea

Begin with Joy and Gratitude

It’s been a cool, wet, deep-into-June type spring here in the Pacific Northwet. We keep the furnace on until summer Solstice, worry over our vegetable starts, tolerate grey skies, and celebrate sunshine. Not yet suffering the weather extremes occurring in many other bioregions, the moderate temperatures create a luxurious blossoming season. There are March daffodils, April tulips, May lilacs, June peonies, and rainbows of rhododendrons.

Rhodies

Behind our house (we have lived here 30 years now) several straggly, beautiful rhodie bushes that were “old” when we got here, offer us their annual blooms. We have now caught up to them, blossoming in our own oldering age. Out front, an ancient crabapple tree, favorite haunt of hummingbirds and sparrows, puts on a prom dress of flashy pink—and we wait for it, hoping each spring that she will do this one more time.

Crabapple blossoms

It has been a reflective theme this year: how do we blossom in place? 

This spring we turned 78 and 75, and we say things like, “I hope we look as good as these rhodies as we age.”  And—

“If we have X more years in this house… what needs fixing? Maintaining? Updating?”

“If we have X more years of energy, health, mental stamina…what do we want to contribute? Support? Explore?”

We are fortunate to have the health to mow and weed and prune and pluck and enjoy. We are fortunate to have a small piece of earth and a modest home to tend and care for.

Christina tending the peas

Tend important relationships

Ann and August

With parents, aunts, uncles all gone, we are each the oldest members of our extended families. We recently returned from a 12-day trip to Minnesota to visit families and friends. We welcomed the newest grandnephew. (See photo of Ann and August, right.)

We released an elder’s ashes to heritage soil. (See photo of Christina and her siblings, below.)

We spent time with mid-life nieces and nephews. We acknowledged the health challenges among our peer siblings. We had deep-diving conversations with friends.

Christina and her siblings

It’s over 1400 miles (2250 km) between our house and these Minnesota houses. It is a privilege to travel, to visit one another, to drive the rolling farmlands with all the lakes. At the edge of awareness, we acknowledge the vulnerability of all this and do not know how our abilities to travel/visit will evolve. We reassure each other that love will go the distance. We encourage one another to make community as well as family, have people close at hand to count on who know us by friendly word and contributory deed.

Christina and her siblings

Ann with her sister, Kathy and family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sociability and Safety Nets

Walk the Park (photo by Becky)

We were visiting Christina’s sister, Becky, during the annual “Walk the Park,” neighborhood meet-and-greet she helps organize. In the city-owned greenspace and trail system that weaves through suburban housing developments, families were invited to stroll between playgrounds where volunteers offered face-painting, banner-making, information on the school systems, libraries, recreational programs, parental support groups, and a wide-range of community assets.

The event was largely organized by a committee comprised of mostly retired women, and largely in support of a community of diverse younger families. It was a great use of Becky’s blooming in place skills. “We’re operating on the idea that the more neighbors see each other and recognize family groups and dog-walkers—our racial and ethnic mix becomes another asset, a safety net of curiosity and acceptance.”

Walking among the informational table displays, the most significant impression was all the social interaction: kids who know each other from school, adults chatting, exchanging phone numbers, setting up summer playdates, grandparents on park benches blowing bubbles—a garden of intergenerational kindness, recognition, and sociability.

Walk the Park (photo by Brooklyn Park newspaper)

Setting in motion and supporting micro-communities of mutual support is a wonderful use of ourselves. We watched Becky lay the groundwork and let the safety net weave. We come home to do the same. Beach walks and roadside pick-ups, neighborhood picnics, sharing garden produce and flowers, taking time to check on one another, pet the dogs, smell the roses.  We can all bloom where we are planted.