Nov 21, 2014

Creativity that overcomes obstacles.

  As I write the sun is shining but the cold has a firm grip on us in Minnesota. We are set for another long hard winter and this will be a challenge for me. After 14 years in this place I have  learned a few things, even though loving cold weather is not one of them. I have learned to change my expectations and objectives to fit closer with reality, so that I do not constantly bang my head against the walls of limitations that the climate places on me. I am learning to garden within the realms of possibility better than I did at first. My plant losses in the winter are fewer, my loss of plants to deer is reduced, and though I don't particularly like it, I am finally starting to be a bit more sensible.

Sensibleness is not my forte, sadly, but although I am not young any more, I can still learn slowly and change by increments. I must say that there is a plus side to living in the realms of possibility, as the disappointments are fewer. There is a humility that recognizes that I am not God and cannot make Minnesota warm, or make certain plants grow in frigid weather.  I am having to grow in creativity so that I can still dream, imagine and create within these confines of limitation, and knitting, writing and cooking are now becoming outlets for me. In many ways the effect of having MS is similar to what this cold weather is like. There are some things I just can't do no matter how much I would like to, but the are ways to still enjoy life, even if I can't always do what I want. Last week I had a wonderful time attending the Prairie Home Companion in Rochester, after being a long time fan. The show was just wonderful and I was blessed to be there. I have had many great conversations with people in my home and I have enjoyed spending time with a friend who is a landscape architect. We bury ourselves down with Pintrest, dreaming and wondering at the amazing plants there are and things you can do with them. Even though I cannot get out and dig right now I can plan and dream and this last summer we  created a lovely new garden of hardy, deer resistant plants. The students help with the heavy work (my shovelling skills are laughable) and I buy plants and arrange and tend them.

Creativity can be fed by overcoming obstacles, whether they are health or weather. Many things are out of our control, but creativity finds a way to overcome and thrive. The biggest battle is in the attitude. 

Sep 20, 2014

I know why the sleepless bird sings

It seems that every Autumn I find myself sick again. With a supressed immune system it is hard to avoid all the germs around. Along with a nasty cold come the worsening MS symptoms and the fear of disease degeneration rears its head again. My eyes are blurry, my legs spastic and the tingling in my legs is keeping me awake.
On the upside I am able to listen to recorded books from the library and I have the echoes of Maya Angelou in my head. Her voice is so clear, lyrical and powerful as she tells her story in 'I know why the caged bird sings' and it has moved me out of self pity. Her ability to tell of abuse with honest clarity is overwhelming and together with all the horrific current news stories I find that I am running to the place of safety in the haunting thoughts of the night.

"On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings,
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me."

Sep 15, 2014

Update on our friend

We heard from our friend last night and he is ok and I am so relieved. One week after leaving he was arrested for public drunkeness and was in jail for 2 weeks. I think this was a mercy as it brought him to his senses, sobered him up and kept him from worse harm. He is now working and sorting out the damage. It has been tough but I do feel our prayers were answered. He knows we love him and communication has been restored. He cannot leave the state he is living in, but we will see him again.
Love hurts sometimes as the song goes. We are getting a window into the addicts world and it is not easy. Love is the best we have to offer in a broken world.

Aug 27, 2014

For our friend

For over a year we have had a young man staying with us who we have grown to love like family. He is funny, talented and kind. He has filled our home with music, tidied up after me and made us cofffee in the morning. He is also an addict and he has stayed sober - most of the time. He has now left and we are undone with grief as he went in the grip of drink once more and determined to bring his life to a rapid end. I wrote this to express the pain.

 My pain echoes
My pain is echoing with the pain of those under my roof. It is pressed in, exposing my heart to the pain that they bear. Like a sound bouncing backwards and forwards it finds out the dark places and says in unison: "This world is broken, cracked, filled with shard flinging agony".
I don't want to feel this cruel reverberation. Lord take this pain and envelope it into your wounds, your agony that cries loudest and longest to the furthest reaches of space. Wash it away with the red tide of your blood and knit me once more into the fresh air of the pounding beat of your chest filled with love.

My prayer is that our friend will be surrounded by angels hemming him in and saving him from himself.

Aug 7, 2014

Building a house on a rock.

Life is not all about where to go, it is about how to go.
For me, I want to build with bricks and mortar.
On ground that is solid and firm.
The restlessness of childhood comes back with a wave of memory,
like a waft of tissue floating in the air.
A glimpse of ephemeral sorrow and lost aloneness,
what is real, what is true, what will save me?

Warm defences and not defenceless.
Meaning, purpose, clarity and knowing.
It is the only way to dispel the lies and deceit,
the false accusations, the abuse.
What was wrong, was wrong.
There is hope, love and salvation.
The lies can be dispensed with and the sure ground inhabited.
Here I stand, this is who I am,
I am not under your control but am held safe,
Held tenderly with clear sight and no deceit.

Jul 18, 2014

Summer Vacations

This last weekend I was pleasantly surprised to have had an enjoyable summer break in Chicago. I had been secretly anxious, but my husband had been wanting to go for years and we were offered a cabin by the lake by some friends. So I said yes and we went for just 3 nights. It is always a schlep to pack all the extra medical stuff and making sure that I didn't forget anything. I have a check list that helps and we headed off for the 5 hour drive.

On highway 90 we passed the Wisconsin Dells and thought it sounded lovely and stopped for lunch. EEAAKK, it was a bawdy holiday jungle of crowds, lights, noise and attractions which was very overwhelming, so we headed back through heavy traffic and carried on to our destination.The cabin was lovely and it was a joy to be alone with my husband and to see him relax. Thankfully the weather was perfect; dry, sunny and a high of 75F. Any hotter and I start to flag but it was lovely and we took the train in to town in the morning, which was really great and I was blown away by how lovely the downtown was.

We caught a taxi to the  architectural boat tour (It makes sense to save energy and worth the cost) and spent a fascinating 1.5 hours travelling on the river and learning about the buildings and Chicago history. So very worth it to just sit and enjoy the ride. We then walked to Millennial Park which turned out to be a bit hard, so I sat in the shade while my husband scouted things out and we headed into the Park restaurant and enjoyed a cool off, rest and great meal. The 'bean' was great but my favourite was the Laurie perennial garden and as a gardener it has been an inspiration. I happily sat while my husband did a little more exploring. 

We headed in the next day by car in the afternoon after a good rest and drove along the water to Lincoln Park and had a lovely  time there too. I found that pacing myself is the key as well as making sure that my husband had the freedom to explore while I rested. The 3rd day we chilled at the cabin and though I was tired, it was the good kind and we vowed to do it again, next time taking in some of the museums in colder weather. I felt like we managed the whole thing well and I think short breaks may be the way to go, it felt like I wasn't missing out on life and that it was something we could both really enjoy.

Jun 30, 2014

A walk in the woods

A butterfly flittered onto my arm as I was walking and for a while it rested there, taking a ride. It was a privilege to have it sojourn in all it's beauty  as I passed on my way.  The woods are like a haven to many creatures and I feel at peace resting there too. Twin fauns lie in the undergrowth with their large eyes and ears illumined by the late afternoon light. They are accustomed to sharing this space and remain in their place, even as I stand regarding them, telling them not to worry. A pileated woodpecker has also grown confident around us and has been busy breaking up rotten logs on the ground by our footpath. To sit and watch it work at close range is a wonder as it's red head is so large and powerful and it's drumming echos at long range.
After all the rain the mushrooms seem to be exploding out of the ground. Every time I walk past, there is something new. I loved finding the huge amanita with its bridal veil and vast cap standing to attention like it has been there all it's life. But it comes and goes mysteriously, only gracing us with its presence a few days a year.
I find nature to be a respite from the challenges of daily life. My brain clears of all it's noise and I find my equillibrium as I reflect on the natural. What a priviledge to have to go to work through a walk in the woods.

Jun 22, 2014


“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh?" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you.” 
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

Jun 1, 2014

Why is it so often assumed people with disabilities are unhappy?

Why is it often assumed people with disabilities are unhappy, asks Tom Shakespeare.

Read more:


This has been a good spring for morel mushrooms. We were able to experience spring in Missouri where we found a good batch and then returning to Minnesota we found a whole lot more. They are surprising little things, popping up overnight both in expected and unexpected places. The surprise find was in the lawn, lots of big yellows but we also found them on slopes under dying elms as was expected as well. In one spot we met another forager who had trained his lab to sniff them out. Needless to say there were not many left there. The bounty is always short lived so having been in two states helped prolong the season.

Our favourite way of eating them is dipped in egg wash then seasoned flour and fried in butter. Soooo good. Here is a picture of my husband with his days find:


This last year we have had a number of young men staying with us for whom heroin and prescription pain killers have been an addiction. They are not street people, but nice middle class boys whose lives have gone terribly wrong.  I guess for them it started with past trauma, mental illness or both, their homes seem clean cut with church going parents but things in reality were not all that great at home. These kids are smart with plenty of opportunity but they just were not coping due to underlying emotional issues. This story so far applies to many and often turns out just fine, but the medical profession let them down with easy access to opioids, poor counselling, and then the drugs were readily available, cheap and cool. Their friends who took them 'got them' and one bad choice led to another and then to addiction and now here they are, post rehab, emotionally dysfunctional, and on the edge of looking for another quick high.

My heart breaks with the reality that I care for them, share my home with them, but like their parents, I know that there is no guarantee that it will work out. We are doing our best but it is hard to fight for another pesons life when they don't want to fight for it themselves, please pray for us and these boys. We all need it. Here is a great article that describes the problem:

May 21, 2014

Spring travels

This spring in Minnesota is a brief few days. Sadly the Winter was so harsh and many perennials didn't make it. Now the weather is going from cold to hot and we will be in Summer in a flash. I did track down a few morels and battered them for lunch, and I enjoyed seeing the wild ginger in bloom today. This week has also seen American redstarts for the first time in my back yard. The highlight though was coming across a baby faun while looking for mushrooms. It was curled up and sound asleep in the woods. We startled it and it got up and stumbled away, it was so delicate and spotted - such a picture of innocence.  

I have been spoiled this year so cannot complain about the weather. I spent December in Australia, then 2 weeks in February and April in Missouri, and 2 weeks in England also in April. All in all I have already had one summer and 2 springs this year. Not bad considering it is only May.

We were in England for work for 1 week, but we took an extra week and caught up with family in Chester and friends in Hampshire. My husband treated me to a night in a lovely hotel in one of our favourite villages, Bosham in Sussex. I am feeling very fortunate indeed.

The diary of an old soul - George MacDonald

"Thy will be done. I yield up everything.
"The life is more than meat" -Then more than health;
"The body more than raiment" - Then more than wealth;
The hairs I made not, thou art numbering.
Thou art my life - I the brook, thou the spring.
Because thine eyes are open, I can see;
Because thou art thyself, 'tis therefore I am me."
-The diary of an Old Soul - George MacDonald

May 9, 2014

Beauty is Truth, truth beauty

“Her religious poetry was surprisingly slender, and as I was eager to know more about her religion, I asked her about this aspect of her poetry. She replied with these lines from Keats' Ode to a Grecian Urn: 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'--that is all Ye know on eath, and all ye need to know'. Do not ask me to immortalise the great Mystery of Life. I am just a humble worker. For beauty, look to the Pslams, to Isaiah, to St. John of the Cross. How could my poor pen scan such verse? For truth, look to the Gospels-- four short accounts of God made Man. There is nothing more to say.”
― Jennifer WorthThe Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times


My heart and mind are not big enough, the pressure of feeling such a depth of joy and sorrow, the vastness of this world and the God of the Universe, sometimes it feels overwhelming and I start shutting down, focussing on the everyday small details of life. I cannot hold it all, oh but wait, I remember now - I DON'T HAVE TO. 

Mar 20, 2014


Here is a collage of some of my fungi photos. I am still surrounded by snow but on this first day of spring I can't wait to discover some more.

Mar 13, 2014


It has been a long hiatus since I posted anything here. These last few months have been extremely full, with travel to Australia, organizing a conference, the death of a friend and health issues. I am back though, as much for my own benefit as anything, as I think I am missing the discipline of writing. This fullness of experience is leaving me with an unprocessed fullness of mind. I am flitting, chopping and unfocused, none of which do me or others any good.

In order to regain some equilibrium I picked up my well worn copy of Annie Dillard's 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek' as this week, at long last, we are finally tasting the reemergence of the world as Spring is finally arriving. We have lain blanketed by snow with frigid weather for months and as I am enjoying rediscovering the earth underneath  I thought I would turn to Annie. This is what I read -
 "And it all works. Nature," said Thoreau in his journal, "is mythical and mystical always, and spends her whole genius on the least work."  The Creator, I would add, churns out the intricate texture of least works that is the world with a spendthrift genius and an extravagance of care. This is the point."
This made me so happy and now that I have a toehold back into the ground I am writing, inspired again.
the ground re-emerging
our  blanketed world

Feb 1, 2014

Building a house on the Rock

Life is not all about where to go, it is about how to go.

How to be rather than the journey. 

For me, I want to build with bricks and mortar 

and ground that is solid and firm. 

The restlessness of childhood comes back with a wave of memory 

like a waft of tissue floating in the air. 

A glimpse of ephemeral sorrow and lost aloneness, 

what is real, what is true, what will save me?

Thankfully this girl no longer inhabits my identity 

It is replaced by structures of meaning, purpose, certainty and knowing. 

It is the only way to dispel the lies and deceit, 

the false accusations and abuse. 

What was wrong was wrong. 

There is hope, love and salvation. 

The lies can be dispensed with and the sure ground inhabited. 

Here I stand, this is who I am, 

I am not under your control but am held safe, 

Held tenderly with clear sight and no deceit.

I stand here, on the Rock of my salvation.

Jan 29, 2014

Cricket in the summertime

Traveling home for a long vacation with family in my home town brings many memories, thoughts and impressions. With the test cricket against England currently being played, the familiar audio in the background takes me back to hot long summer days in my childhood. Unlike rugby that requires undivided attention, cricket is a non demanding, background form of entertainment with it's delightful commentary of idioms describing the "leather on willow", "sticky wickets", "6 men in slips", "he just bowled a maiden over", "facing the cherry" and "he's out for a duck". This prattles on for days in the background as life is carried on in the summer holidays. When excited voices demand attention the replay is watched with joy or grief and then everyday activities resume.

P.S. Well done Australia!