August 11, 2017

Leveling Out Your Playing Field

 

I remember a lot of great things about my mother , but her green thumb has to be my most treasured. I learned so much from her passion for gardening, and how to tend to and appreciate the beautiful things that grow in nature! Satisfying the need to dig in her gardens gave her a quiet control. She would make time to fertilize, water and “dead head”. This is the technique of pinching off the dead blooms. The simple effort keeps the plants blooming.  For my mother an “off with the old and in with the new!” gave her a hopeful activity. No matter how tired or busy she was with the other things that can consume all of our daily lives, , her gardens always held high priority for her time and attention. Her reward was a beautiful, thriving garden, and moments of peace for her soul.  The relationship she had with nature was one that she could control and because she nurtured her garden, and it responded, she had very few disappointments in that peaceful place. I realized that her gardens were more meaningful to her sanity, a rejuvenating sanctuary of sorts. I think of all the times in her life that chaos would take center stage, and she would head to her gardens… A place she created for herself only… A place that made her smile and feel great about her success as a gardener. I often think my mother was “leveling out the playing field” in her life by spending time in her gardens. After all-controlling plants and their success was easier than trying to control the chaos of people around her. My mother had a lot of beauty in her life, some was a blessing, and some she created.  We all can learn to create beauty in our lives, we just have to remember that controlling a “plant”, is easier than controlling a person. My mother often said ,” My  life was chosen for me, and it is my responsibility to make it as beautiful as I can.” Her ability to distinguish between what she could create and control was the lesson that I learned from her. This lesson was one of many she taught me. No, I didn’t get her green thumb but I got so much more.  I recognize that we can not control people, but we can create a place to go and dwell in what we love. A place that offers us peace and beauty… We can always create a place that makes us smile and offers peace. It can be perfected with our love, and hard work. And does not have to revolve around people problems.  When you find that place visit it as often as possible… It will “level out the playing field” in your life.

Does Anyone Really Borrow A Cup Of Sugar Anymore?

If you live in a neighborhood where you have recently borrowed a cup of sugar, then I would consider that to be a great place, and a place that time has forgotten. Why has this neighborly gesture become a thing of the past? Most of us don’t even talk to our neighbors anymore, much less feel that we could borrow a cup of sugar from them. This strong bond and sense of community is probably gone forever. I for one will always miss it.

I grew up in an older, established neighborhood, and by that I mean, we had all been there a while. We spoke daily, knew everybody’s family, and everybody’s business, and in a good way. We took care of each other.  I remember as a kid, my mother, my grandmother, and my aunts, would spend all their time in the kitchen cooking for our family, and they would also cook food to share with the neighbors. When they needed an ingredient, no one ran to the store, or bought something prepared in its place. They would send me next door to borrow a cup of sugar, a stick of butter, flour, or whatever was missing in the pantry.  That is just the way it was. We spent time talking with the neighbors over a cup of coffee, sharing gardening tips, sharing the days local news, and of course a sharing touch of healthy gossip. I remember my mother borrowing a stick of butter from our neighbor Barbara, to bake a cake that was going to be given to her for a holiday gift. I am sure if Barbara had known this, she would have given an obligatory eye roll, told the story over a cup of coffee, and deep down been perfectly fine with the gesture of give and take.

So now all these years later, I’m still living in an old city neighborhood, much like what I grew up in. But my childhood memories are just that, childhood memories. I am lucky if I get a smile and a gentle wave from my neighbors, because in this day and age that bit of effort seems to be a lot for people to give. My neighborhood and neighbors are great, but really it is our overall society that has changed. I wonder if someone next door took the time to sit on my porch with me, drink a cup of coffee, and talk about Sundays football game, would be like telling your friends you saw Bigfoot.

What we are missing by dismissing this wonderful old pastime, is connecting with another person, and growing a relationship that enriches, and strengthens who we are. Real human connection, not texts, not emails, not phone tag, gives us a way to give back, a way to give of ourselves, and a way to learn from others how we can be a better person. It gives us perspective, and wholeness. And let’s face it, we all need a cup of sugar at some point! Let’s make the effort to make the connection, and never forget how great is it to be a part of a neighborhood family!

Stephen Spurling.