My Floridian son meets his first snow shovel

•January 17, 2010 • 1 Comment

A month ago Western NC had one of those record snowfalls. First, the forecasters called for 1-3 inches. No problem, an hour or so of shoveling and off we go!

That was not to be! Before we knew it, we had 18 inches of snow piled up in some really interesting places and the power, cable and phones were down for the count.

It was beautiful in its own way. The picnic table had 3 piles of snow (2 benches and table top) that looked like they had been poured into forms, the shapes were so perfect.

The real story for us was getting the driveway cleared before the snow became ice.  We had pine branches down and trees bent down to touch the ground. We had two snow shovels, one good one and one one that was just holding on. We also had two 50+ year old backs and one 16 year olds. We share a driveway with two other families. You could see the nervousness in my 70 yr old neighbor’s eyes – could he shovel even a small path  and not hurt or kill himself. My other neighbor, with whom we share a driveway did not even have a snow shovel. To make it even worse, the pine tree branches bent down and broke off all over the place.

But I digress, after all, this is supposed to be about my son. While my wife, my step-daughter, my neighbor and I were out shoveling our little steep shared driveway I stopped and called my son in Pittsburgh to share this unique experience.

This past fall he and his wife bought their first house. Its a little place but it is their place and I know the sense of pride in ownership they have. As would be expected from my #1 son, they had already done some gardening before the weather got too cold.

But now they were facing the same snowstorm we were digging out from. And for this young man, born and raised in Orlando, FL and who went to college in St. Petersburg, FL, this was his first chance to shovel a driveway! Me, I grew up in Pennsylvania and had to shovel snow from an early age. You don’t forget the sore back and muscles even after living 30 years in the Sunshine state.

I thought I would hear bitching about the hard work, but instead I got “no problem, Dad, its almost fun, being outside”.  Of course he has 1/10th the driveway I have and a back that is 25 years younger, but it was fun to joke with him about this new experience and losing his virginity.

I am really enjoying watching my little guy grow into a wonderful adult. I can’t wait for the next experience.


Legacy of a Parent – The Next Generation

•May 25, 2009 • 2 Comments

I had a visit from my oldest son last weekend.  Along with feeding him well for the road back and giving him an extra tight hug goodbye I got to send him home with some plants from my garden.  In with the luggage went a few baby foxgloves (generously re-seeded by the mother plant), a hosta (another volunteer), and a fern from the woods.  I had to choose the plants to fit his low to medium light garden space.

Somehow I managed to share with him my love of gardening, and now we have a piece of my garden in common as well.  It is not often a parent is blessed to share a hobby with their child and even more difficult to do when you live 9 hours apart.  It gave me a wonderful feeling to be able to gift him with a piece of this home for his home.

I look forward to years of sharing not just our love but our love of growing things.  It feels great to know that he values the same love of all things green and growing.

BTW – if I can take a moment to brag – my son is a 2nd year PHd candidate at University of Pittsburgh in Ecology and Evolution.  Here’s a link to his page and picture of him in his lab.

Legacy of a Parent

•February 2, 2008 • 6 Comments

After reading a post from Jenny Litchfield’s blog (wonderful blog about life and gardening from New Zealand) about tree planting 

I just had to tell my father how his concern for the future had such an impact on my life.  As a teen I absolutely hated the time I had to spend doing yard work.  I bitched up a storm and genuinely made myself as unpleasant as possible.  I still ended up doing the work, but never got to enjoy it. My bad!

Somehow though I found myself drawn to growing things as a college student (I once had 100 houseplants I carted around from apartment to apartment), and spent some of my spare time at a little nursery near my university.  I even had a 6 ft ficus growing in a pot behind the headboard of my bed (it was like sleeping in the woods, sort of). 

From there I found myself planting stuff whenever I could at whatever apartment I lived at if there was some bare dirt at the front door.  Since then I have planted more and more elaborate gardens at each house where I lived.

But the legacy my father left me was not so much to be a gardener.  He really never was much of a gardener.  He had terrible allergies and hay fever (one of the reasons I got to do the lawn work).  However, he told me his goal was to plant a tree at every house he ever lived that would outlast his time in that place.  He had a notion of leaving behind a living legacy.

I have re-visited the houses where I grew up and there are beautiful trees in each lawn – a 40+ year old red maple in one place, evergreens and a gorgeous crabapple at the other.  His most recent home has had its challenges with pear trees that break apart.  But he is still working on leaving his legacy behind, even as he enters his late 70’s.

After reading Jenny’s blog though, I had to tell him that his legacy would continue through my efforts and I fully expect through the efforts of my children. 

As children my parents encouraged us to plant trees.  The synagogue would hand out these little cardboard coin holders and we would fill them with our quarters and each filled holder would go to plant a tree in Israel.  Somewhere in Israel, my siblings and I have more than one tree we helped plant in a forest planted by thousands of American Jews.

As an adult I have followed his example and planted trees (and gardens) in each of the houses I have owned.  I signed up for the Billion Tree project and planted three trees this past fall.  I am sure I will plant more as the years go by and will work hard to make my little woods stay healthy.

My first house - 20 yr old camphor trees

My little piece of mother nature

Somehow, magically I have passed this love of planting things on to at least one of my children.  Today he is a Phd candidate doing research in the environment and plant biology and genetics.  He left his first rental house a little better off than when he got it, planting a little garden in the back yard.  He has experimented with growing veggies and herbs too.  I suspect that when he gets the chance he will put tree roots in the ground and make a stand for the future as well.

There is even hope for my other son who, when we first moved to these parts of North Carolina would not go outside.  Now he hikes and camps out with friends.  He has even come and helped me re-plant my small piece of lawn.

What a legacy for a parent to have, to see into the future and plant the seeds of knowledge and vision!

Oh Holy Night – A Gift from the Divine

•April 6, 2007 • 2 Comments

April 7, 1984 at 6:07 PM began the holiest evening of my life.  I have experienced other holy moments, when I felt in touch with the divine; but the first night of my first born son’s life remain to this day the holiest.  That day the divine gave me the opportunity to experience caring completely and utterly without reservation for another creature.  For hours while his mother slept through the night, I was granted the opportunity to hold and comfort and cherish this tiny spark of the divine laying in my arms.


If making contact is holy work I was doing the divine’s holiest work that night.  As unready in my head as I was to be a parent, my heart knew better. Every part of me was connected to this 6 lb 7 oz wonder, wrapped up tight in his blanket, laying his knit-capped head on my shoulder.


Looking back 23 years I can still remember the chair we sat in for hours, the orientation of the room, and the feel of his little body pressed up against me.


On this, his birthday, I want to thank the divine for all that was given me on that holiest of days.  No matter what has followed, through all the ups and downs of parenthood, I will always remember that holy night.


If you have a moment in your life when you felt truly blessed, a divine moment, that holy contact, please tell your story here.

Making Contact Is Holy Work

•April 3, 2007 • 1 Comment

Connecting with the divine in everything is hard work.  I find it difficult to near impossible to always be in touch with the people with whom I am engaged or the awe-inspiring world within which I exist every moment of every day.

When I am with people I am thinking thoughts on what I am going to say (if I am even interested in what they are saying) or thinking about other things I could be doing.

When I am in the world I am thinking or doing but not being present.

Making contact with the divine is holy work.  It is prayer. If god is in everything, then making contact with other creatures, people, or a rock is an act of connecting to god.

It may be divine, it may be holy, but it sure is a lot of work!

When have you felt connected to another or to the divine? Do you find it easy or difficult to be present for the opportunity of a holy connection?

Spring Gardening in WNC

•March 31, 2007 • 3 Comments

Spring has come a bit early this year in Western North Carolina (WNC).  Everyone has been remarking on it and I have been enjoying it tremendously.  I do have a strong sense though that the early warm weather is an arbiter of global warming!

The crocus have come and gone, the daffodils have a few late stragglers still blooming and the weeds are having a blast!

Crocus Spring 2007

This past week the hyacinth I planted last (break for bird alert – downy woodpecker was just outside my window here, what beautiful reds, grays and whites) fall have all pushed through the clayey soil and are perfuming the back yard!  I cannot wait each afternoon to get home and stick my nose in a sweet smelling bloom.

One lone and unusual tulip opened this past week.  It was glorious but fleeting.  I have it as my PC desktop so I see it still each day.  Its friends have not been lazy though, the grape hyacinth have come on strong and the rest of the tulips have struck out on their brave path towards beautiful glory.  We will shortly have a garden full of their incredible reds and yellows to go along with the blues of the grape and regular hyacinth.

First Tulip of 2007

There are plenty of reminders of battles I have been waging for the last 2 years as I rebuild what was once obviously a wonderful garden yard.  Someone let the may apples go crazy and I took them out last year (I thought) but have found a few hardy souls popping up this year.  In addition, I have discovered that the wild geranium (I think) has a vast network of roots deep in one of my beds.  They just seem to laugh at me when I yank out the tops as they have a veritable army of recruits waiting to follow in their fallen brethrens footsteps.  We shall see who is the more patient and persistent one.  I once battled some invasive weeds for 4 or 5 years before I finally eradicated them.  By the way, I try my very best to weed by hand or tool, no chemicals allowed.  I take the long view on that matter.

I am still new to this garden and especially to spring.  In my Florida garden I never seemed to wonder where my plants were, they were always there for the most part.  Now I have plant markers everywhere so I do not forget what I planted.  And the daily investigation brings last year’s friends back to my view – yesterday I found the peony poking its tender shoots up.  It has a lot of growing to do between now and mid-May (Mother’s Day) for it to bloom, yet I have faith that all of these wonderful creations will do their utmost to grow back to their full and awe-inspiring nature.

Spring is early this year and hope and wonder abound.  I am blessed.  

Parenthood Redux – Math Progress

•March 15, 2007 • 1 Comment

This is a follow up to an earlier post called “Parenthood Redux – Math Homework”

Late last year I found myself trying to remember how to do basic math in order to help my 13 year old step-daughter.  It was a challenge for me. 

I can happily say my step daughter found an alternate study-buddy in math and did so well she was near the top of her class in math this past semester! Her mother and I are happy she wants to do well and was able to get help from a more competent source. This semester when things started out rocky, she jumped right on it, worked it out with the teacher and got her grade back up!

Her attitude and her values are a blessing.

Now I can focus on other aspects of parenting redux – like her driver’s permit that is only 15 months away.

On second thought, bring on the math homework!