Watercolor sketch of euphorbia

April is National Poetry Month, and before the month slips away, I wanted to try my hand at writing a little poem.  Here is a haiku in honor of this month-long celebration:

Euphorbia Flowers

Airy green perches,
Miniature lily pads,
delight errant bees.

First cutting of rhubarb

This week I harvested my first cutting of rhubarb and made a rhubarb pie.  Here’s a virtual visit to the rhubarb patch.  Wish I could give you a taste through the screen!

The rhubarb in my garden is flourishing in this cool spring weather.

Rhubarb's giant leaves make an extravagant bouquet, don't you agree?

Washing the rhubarb stalks in the sink

Colander with sliced rhubarb

Pie ingredients in one big bowl

Rhubarb pie filling

Rhubarb pie cooling on the kitchen counter

First slice, still warm

First taste of rhubarb pie this year

Savoring the last two bites

I used the same recipe that I posted two years ago.  Here is the link:  https://rosemarywashington.wordpress.com/2009/04/18/first-of-the-season-rhubarb-pie/.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
     — Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Getting and spending . . .

 At the beginning of Walden, Thoreau looks about him and sees people who “appear to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways,” employed “laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal.” And when you think about it, this is still the prevailing convention — measuring success by the achievements of job, car(s), home, electronic paraphernalia, furnishings worthy of Martha Stewart, vacations, etc.  One trades a lot of hours to support a lifestyle like this, and unfortunately, many of those hours are boring and dispiriting (think of the spirit-deaths you suffer in meetings, doing record-keeping, paying bills, for example).  And yet, how few of us would advise our children to pursue a less conventional life instead.  I wonder why.

There are many paths to growth and fulfillment, and it takes courage to abandon a traditional career and choose a more uncertain path, but one that is in alignment with your individual yearnings.  Joseph Campbell says, “Follow your bliss.”  And this might be the hardest way of all, but ultimately the most rewarding.

For me, figuring out how to live in a meaningful way is hard, but not desperate or boring. I’m still figuring it out.  Each small choice along the way adds to or detracts from life’s richness.  My decision to work parttime instead of full time is one example.  Now that my daughter is an adult and parenting demands have lightened, I certainly could choose to go back to work full time.  But I haven’t.  Parttime work gives my life more balance, and I’m willing to trade added financial security in retirement for the extra personal time now.

There may be other changes I can make, though, to live better at this stage in my life.  Imagine the possibilities!

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours . . .”
     — William Wordsworth

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it, blame yourself for you are not poet enough to call forth its riches.”
     — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


Tulip design in my morning latte at Zoka's Coffee Shop

Late April tulip finally ready to bloom
Tulips in a euphorbia patch
Tulips ready to bloom

We’ve had one warm sunny day this month when the temperature reached a high of over 60 degrees F.  In March we had just two 60+ degree days.  But the tulips are finally beginning to bloom — welcome color this gray Spring.

Watercolor sketch of three tulips

Watercolor sketch of two tulips and euphorbia

Pale yellow star magnolia blossom

Magnolia buds and blossoms
Star magnolia in pale yellow

Until today, I’ve never seen magnolia blossoms in pale yellow.  This tree caught my eye on my walk home from Green Lake this morning.  I like it when my senses are awakened by something new and different.

Grape hyacinths growing through violet pansies

Watercolor sketch of grape hyacinths and pansies

“It was as if a cluster of grapes and a hive of honey had been distilled and pressed together into one small boss of celled and beaded blue.”
     — Ruskin

Happy, Eggy Easter

April 24, 2011

Easter eggs on our lawn

Easter eggs on the lawn

We dyed a few Easter eggs this year.

My kitchen window at Easter time

Watercolor sketch of Easter eggs

Happy Easter 2011!

My Favorite Carrot Cake

April 23, 2011

A slice of my favorite carrot cake

I think carrot cake makes a perfect dessert for the Easter holiday.  So today I will share my favorite carrot cake recipe, which I got from D’Amico’s Cafe in Seattle many years ago.  I’ve never found a better recipe for this cake.  I usually make half a recipe and bake it in a round cake pan.

Carrot Cake
from D’Amico’s Cafe

1-1/2 c sugar
1-1/2 c vegetable oil
4 eggs
3 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
grated orange peel from one large orange
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 c grated carrots
3/4 c crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 c golden raisins
1/2 c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

Beat sugar, oil and eggs until well blended.  Add flour, baking soda, vanilla, orange peel, spices and pineapple.  Stir in carrots, raisins and walnuts.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until done.  Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting.

Carrots for carrot cake

Grated orange peel

I took a few minutes on my drive home from the dentist to check out Seattle’s newest pocket park, the Thomas C Wales Park.  It’s a tiny oasis in a boggy area, a sanctuary for birds and bats, which can find tiny nesting spots inside several Quarry Rings.  It’s built like a natural amphitheater on a hillside. 

Thomas C Wales pocket park, Seattle
New leaves on new plantings in the park
The gabion rings (rocks inside wire enclosures) will house birds and bats.
Quarry Rings at the Thomas C Wales Park

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
     — Henry David Thoreau, Walden

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately . . ."

Thoreau’s single sentence about his intentions for his experiment at Walden’s Pond certainly packs a punch.  There are two lessons here:  to live mindfully (deliberately) and to live with receptivity, open to new, unexpected ideas.

Watercolor sketch of woods in winter

Is it possible to live mindfully without withdrawing like Thoreau?  My current life is full of commitments to husband, daughter, work, home, extended family, all relationships I am unwilling to sacrifice for solitude.  So, as much as I aspire to cultivate an attitude of mindfulness for my whole life, I will settle for even a moment or two of awareness and illumination each day.

Deliberate is good.  Slow is good.  But I wonder if I’d find a saintly life of total mindfulness a bit ponderous.  Perhaps you are familiar with the zen exercise of taking two minutes to eat just one raisin.  It teaches us how much flavor our lives are missing when we rush through it without savoring each second.  How enriched life would be if only we would truly live each moment fully.  But who among us has the time to take two minutes on each bite of nourishment, each step, even each encounter with others?

The lesson about receptivity is equally challenging.  What gifts are we missing by pursuing so single-mindedly the career and family goals we think we should follow to be seen as successful?  It takes an enormous amount of courage to try other ways.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
     — Joseph Campbell

“A fully lived and passionate life is not only, or not even mostly, about being useful or useless, it is about being.  Being what?  That we shall discover only when we lay down our arms and rest awhile from being everything we think we are.”
     — Roger Housdon, Seven Sins for a Life Worth Living

“So I’ll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them
(emphasis mine) .”
     — Naomi Shihab Nye, from “Valentine for Ernest Mann”

I admire Thoreau for living his radical experiment at Walden’s Pond.  I, too,  need to think more about changing my habituated daily routines to make space for new growth.