Gardening + Nature

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Popped out for a walk the other day and this greeted me on the front steps. I watched for a long time, the slow, deliberate steps, and gave a shout to the hubster to come see. We scooped it up onto a leaf before the mailman had a chance to blindly squish it, and thanked it for coming.


Trans-Canada Highway 20 between Quebec City and Montreal, three hours of sweeping plains dressed nature’s autumnal quilt, signs for moose and deer (but no sign of them), fog and pouring rain, a soup stop at Tim Horton’s, granite monoliths dotted in neon. A great day to be on the road.



And the hills are kitted out in their beautiful best.  The mood changes with the whim of the wind and scudding clouds, leaving me to shiver or coo, hood up or eyes squinting at the the warmth of the sun. How lucky I am to be wandering this neck of the woods, to traipse loudly through ankle deep leaves, to hear the squawk and chirp and cry of every manner of bird, greeting me from on high, to know a bit more of the world.

And with fall comes the shift from the snap and crunch of giant summer salads to roasted vegetables and hearty soups, the house warmly scented. I am jiving on this combination, as of late: a winter squash and red grapes, dotted with butter and flaked sea salt. On days that I remember, I toss in rosemary from the garden for the last few minutes, and everything is elevated. Mmmm, yes!

How about that smile! Last Sunday’s walking adventure to St. George’s Ukrainian Church in Brighton Heights for their Ethnic Food Festival. We devoured more hearty fall fare, Stroganoff, buttery rolls, borscht (for the hubster, I don’t do beets), mushroom barley soup, pierogies, and sausage with the best cabbage I’ve ever tasted.

The scrape of metal chairs on linoleum and a wall lined with crooked pictures of Jesus and the saints sent me straight back to childhood and the countless hours spent at Our Lady of Grace. The church where my dad was an Altar Boy, and I earned my First Communion. The church where Father Moynihan taught me, with a wink and a smile, how to shake hands properly. The church where I saw my Grandma Frances in her Sunday best, gloved hands, lipstick, and the scent of Aqua Net. Oh, nostalgia, how you blur the tedium and frustration and shine a light on all that is fine.

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When I am world weary and heart heavy but cannot escape this mad collection of bridges, hills, and gulches, I head to the Phipps. I wander, my fingers skimming, searching for scent, my eyes alighting and darting, delighted and eager as butterflies, from plant to plant to plant. The stubborn knots of my troubled soul are loosened by the order and wickedness of nature, where all are needed, all are beautiful, yet none are spared the end. The vanilla of orchids, the whoosh of air on silken leaves, the hum of bees and wasps, and flower after flower nodding in surrender and approval. We are one.


I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.

Charlotte Bronte



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