New things: Growing my own

Some of our homegrown Garrison lettuce, Celebrity tomato and cucumber mint water.
Looks yummy, doesn’t it? Let me tell you about a months-in-the-making addition to my list of 50 new things I’m trying this year as part of my 50th birthday celebration. Vegetable gardening.

I eat tons of salad, year-round, so I was happy to support my housemate’s enthusiasm for putting together a small garden in the backyard. I imagined the money I’d save growing my own organic cucumber. I thought about the varieties of lettuce I’d experiment with. And I counted the days until we’d have our own homegrown tomatoes.

(Brilliant American songwriter Guy Clark said/sang it best with a tune called “Homegrown Tomatoes” on his 1983 album, Better Days: “There’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”)

Early fruits

She mixed up earthy magic using a recipe developed by Mel Bartholomew (founder of Square Foot Gardening) to get us going and pretty soon, our little patch of heaven boasted seedlings galore.

The sugar snap pea scampered up its trailing string in a mad rush to bloom and fruit. The mint, basil, sage and dill made themselves at home. When we added mums and petunias for natural insect control, our fledgling garden literally blossomed.

Thanks to the magic of Mel’s Mix (and careful watering), I even coaxed lettuce and strawberries to grow in a notoriously inauspicious strawberry pot.

Cucumber and tomatoes were slower to establish themselves. The tomato plants mostly kept getting taller and needing more support. The cuke spent its days climbing and dividing into more vines. And we had a squash plant that made showy blossoms but was stingy with the actual fruit.

The solo gardener

For all my housemate enjoyed planning and setting up the garden, and as much as she and I both loved the hide-and-seek game of looking for fledgling cucumbers, the everyday routine of gardening couldn’t hold her interest.

A single day’s harvest of plum tomatoes!

I might have given up, too, as the Texas spring got hot and we spent more time in the air-conditioned house, but dang it, I wanted my salad goodies.

So I remembered to water every day. I tapped the blooming tomato plants to help ensure pollination. I guided the greedy cucumber vine to things it could hold onto besides the tomato plants. I dead-headed the ‘mums and petunias to keep them blossoming.

And finally…


The harvest of our first cucumbers and plum tomatoes began a riotous abundance of delicious summer eating. Soon, we were refreshing ourselves with cucumber-mint water from a never-empty pitcher. Snacking on plum- and cherry-tomatoes. And when at last we began getting full-sized tomatoes, we celebrated our homegrown bounty with BLT sandwiches and tomato cucumber salad.

Dog-day reflections

It’s mid-August now. Temperatures here have been in the triple digits for weeks. The vine of plum tomatoes is still producing fruit, though at a sluggish pace appropriate to these dog days of summer. Much of the garden has withered in spite of my ongoing efforts.

Knowing what I know now, will I get caught up in another gardening frenzy around here next spring? Ask me again when temperatures drop back into the 80s. Whisper words to me of love. Like bell pepper and sweet potato and other yumminess we haven’t yet tried to grow. Remind me how drinking cucumber water made me feel wealthy beyond measure.

And promise me homegrown tomatoes.

Photos: Sally Felt

Just won’t float

When I say I’m not the woman I was at 25, usually it’s because today’s 50-year old version of me feels freer, more confident and happier than I could imagine in my twenties. But recently, I freaked out in a spa’s floatation tank. It’s made me think about what personal growth really means.

Unsinkable in a mere foot of water

The spa promised an hour free of gravity’s shackles. I’d float like a cork in womb-like darkness in 300 gallons of water, saturated with more than a thousand pounds of Epsom salts, in a human-sized tank. The tank was soundproof and utterly dark. No distractions. Thanks to the body-temperature water, I’d soon lose track of where my skin ended and the water began.

Some might quail at the prospect, but I couldn’t wait. Back in the 80s, float tanks provided me a rare escape from my busy, busy brain.

When history fails to repeat

I had anticipated a spiritual experience, appropriate of the many ways I’ve evolved in the decades since my last float. Instead, I panicked before I’d even turned out the light.

Lying in the dark tank was out of the question, but I decided I’d use my hour in this warm, quiet place to enjoy some private meditation. Upright, I gained sufficient density to touch my bottom to the tank’s floor. I switched off the light, listened to my breath and released the need to wonder why 50-year-old me rejected something my nervous 25-year-old self had embraced so easily.

Sometimes it’s okay to be left in the dark

Why is a question I still haven’t answered. Perhaps it happened that way because I’m currently learning to recognize energetic boundaries, and so losing sense of my body would confuse me. Perhaps I was simply having a touchy day.

Perhaps why it happened that way matters less than that it did.

Turns out, growth isn’t linear

Fifty-year-old me went into the tank expecting to pick up where 25-year-old me left off. But if 25-year-old me had freaked in the tank, harsh self-criticism would have followed. Only with the perspective of age was I able to adapt to what was happening with presence and a new set of responses, rather than cling to my expectations and judge myself accordingly.

When I look at it that way, I reckon I had my spiritual experience after all.

Photo credit: From the official i-sopod website

New things: Barber

“I’d like to ask a favor and you are free to say no,” my housemate said. She was fresh from the shower and we both lounged on the back patio in the warm spring breeze. “I’d like you to cut my hair.”

She pantomimed leaning forward in her chair, bowing her head and brushing her wet hair off her neck, up over her crown, and trimming it at what would be bangs-length in front. She’d do it herself, she explained, but she had a tendency to cut her fingers when holding her hair.

To shear or not to shear? To shear!

I know her well enough to realize she wasn’t asking for the latest fashion or even any style at all, so I said sure. We put her on a folding chair in the middle of the backyard.

She brushed her hair forward and I went to work with the decidedly dull pair of scissors we use for various things around the house. Locks of her silvery hair fell to the lawn for birds and other critters to carry away.

While I’ve no ambitions of hanging out my shingle as a barber, she’s declared delight with the results, and I’ve got a “new thing” to add to my birthday list. Simple. Reciprocal. Awesome.

[Awhile back, I announced my intention to celebrate my 50th birthday year by trying 50 new things. This post contributes to my chronicle of some of those new things.]

Photo credit: katrinket

Mirrors, mirrors. Aren’t we all?

People can be so annoying. Especially when they show me something about myself I don’t want to see.

It happened at a recent Meetup. One of my fellow students of Tarot read her cards with fluttering hands and plenty of mystical drama. Normally, I would chalk it up to personal style and perhaps find it amusing. This time, it irritated me.

Why? If I needed to justify my feeling, I’d point to the way she spouted prognostications as set-in-stone truths. This precludes free will and thus violates my code as a Tarot reader.

But that very afternoon, I’d rolled my eyes while telling a friend about a client’s infatuation with the mystical trappings commonly assigned to the intuitive and psychic sides of life.

What was my beef?

Time to look in the mirror

Truth is, I was once as infatuated as my client. And while I’ve not indulged in the kind of hand-fluttering as my fellow reader, I recognize it as a symptom of the same thing.

It seemed my irritation stemmed from being reminded of a version of myself I’ve left behind. But if I’d truly left it behind, I’d feel compassion rather than irritation.

My irritation carried the ugly whiff of judgment. And now that I’ve noticed it, other examples are popping up. They represent different areas of my past/beliefs/self-image. Facing these mirrors challenges me. It’s uncomfortable to admit to feeling judgmental, of myself and/or of others.

It helps to remind myself that I’ve grown–I’m experiencing these feelings from a perspective never before possible for me.

In other words, it’s okay to be where I am today. It’s merely my opportunity to embrace what I see in the mirror, and to appreciate the people who show it to me.

What are your mirrors showing lately? How do you handle it?

Photo credit (mirror): Elizabeth/Table4Five

Launching a new living adventure

I’ve just moved house for the first time in 14 years!

Because it’s not my first-ever move, I’m not counting the relocation as one of my birthday new things. But it’s the first time I’m moving into a house, rather than an apartment. And it’s the first time I’m going to be a roommate (other than college dorm living). Lots and lots of new things in store, I’m sure.

Thanks, campsite. I’m on my way

Today, I collected the last few things from the old place and turned in my keys. After having lived there so long, I thought I might feel pangs on leaving, but nope. It felt more like rolling out of a gorgeous campsite after a satisfying stay.

…but I offered a ritual farewell

Though I was tired and interested in moving on to all the unpacking awaiting me at the new place, I took a few minutes to sip a cold Blackberry Izze and really appreciate the empty shell that had been my shelter and sanctuary. I walked the perimeter of each room, expressing my thanks and wishing it well.

Heck, even my hibiscus plant expressed its gratitude. It was blooming today, blowing kisses all the way across town to our new home.

Life among stacks of boxes makes it easy to lose sight of how much I shed in preparation for this move. Even when I can’t see it, though, I feel it. I found new homes for about 60% of my furniture and half of my belongings.

I feel freed. Could this be what it means to become en-lightened? Hee!

Camper photo: Grand Canyon NPS
Hibiscus photo: mcdlttx

New things: Calling in to a radio show

Have you ever phoned in to a radio show or podcast? As of today, I have.

The show in question was about Human Design, a self-discovery tool I’d heard about last year listening to Benjamin Bernstein’s wonderful “This Week In Astrology” podcast. After that show, I’d emailed his guest, Hal Bahr, for a copy of my Human Design chart.

That action put me on Hal’s email list and I learned he’d be on a show with Kim Gould. The show date came and went. I’d forgotten it. Oh, well, I thought, it must not have been important for me to hear it.

Second chances wear funny clothes

Yesterday, I heard the original show date had been scrapped due to technical problems, and they’d try again today. Seemed the Universe wasn’t done with me.

I called and voila, I was on air. They were charming and helpful. I took notes, said thank you and that was that.

Short version of what I learned from the hosts: Mars and Venus occupy the same spot in my Human Design, but unsurprisingly, they express it very differently. For my Mars, different = dangerous. By contrast, my Venus maintains a fearless trust in a greater unanimity and an ability to find value in apparent differences.

I trust her to soothe my Mars as I fling myself into my 50 New Things in my 50th Year adventure.

[Awhile back, I announced my intention to celebrate my 50th birthday year by trying 50 new things. This post contributes to my chronicle of some of those new things.]

Photo credit: curtis.kennington

Moving ahead to a fresh start

The start of a new year symbolizes the opportunity of a fresh start. This year, part of my fresh start will be shifting to a new home.

Thirteen years = time to shed skin

I haven’t moved residence since December 1998, thirteen years ago. And though I’ve been consciously uncluttering for the last few years, moving plans have me questioning every thing. “Does this thing represent the energy I want to bring with me into my future life? Does it fit with who I am becoming?”

Somehow, I doubt I’ll wait another 13 years to ask myself such fundamental questions. Rather, I suspect that the massive shedding of old possessions/perceptions will free me in ways I can’t begin to imagine. It’s both scary, and very exciting.

My birthday wish for this year is to try 50 new things. No doubt this move will give me a head start on that list.

What are you doing for a fresh start this year?

Photo credit: SidPix