Garden Stories (#3)

Any of you who talked with me last summer know the great lengths I went to in order to establish milkweed in my backyard.

Since my groundhog always munches down the common milkweed, I had decided to bring in some other varieties. When my hole-digging was hampered by a monster slab of old foundation material buried about a foot below the surface, I built a retaining wall to raise the bed above it. My milkweed had to have good soil and room for its roots.

And, of course, there is no giving up on milkweed. That would be giving up on monarchs and I refuse to consider that.

(As I have written elsewhere, monarchs are to me much more than one more pretty butterfly. They are one of the proofs of the existence of God.)

So I was overjoyed this year when we had an early spring and the milkweed, all three varieties, emerged from the soil, healthy and anxious to reach skyward. Despite my best efforts, the common milkweed was, of course, eaten. But the swamp milkweed and the butterfly weed flourished.

It was a veritable banquet for the royal offspring, with plenty of nectar plants to nourish their hungry parents.

But then, something went wrong. No one showed up for the feast.

I shouldn’t say no one. The large milkweed bugs were early arrivals, not shy about consuming their share.


Once the milkweed bloomed, our dear little cabbage whites stopped in for a sip of nectar.


Though glad to feed the multitudes, I kept wondering: where are the monarchs? Checking other neighborhood gardens, I concluded that they just aren’t here.

Almost two weeks ago, I was visiting a rural nature preserve southeast of Cleveland and saw a single monarch, its wings tattered and worn.

Not only did he allow me to receive his image, he whispered a message to me, asking me to disseminate it for him.

Click here to see this brave monarch and his message. You’ll arrive at my little Zazzle store (which I’m afraid is much-neglected) and discover how his image and message have been made into a post card.



We interrupt our regularly scheduled series on Garden Stories to present you with this special on Sky-watching in Inner City Cleveland.

The following images were received by cell phone (weather conditions were considered too precarious for camera to venture out) within a period of no more than 10-15 minutes. The varying images emerged by changing perspective while walking around within the space of one city block.

Inner city sky-watching is different from other sky-watching ventures because there is no effort to pretend you are somewhere pristine, free of the poles, wires, cars and just plain trashiness of this world. You live in its midst – and watch the sky.

Enter the city, enter the sky with me – and discover its holiness…

(To allow you the full experience, the only editing of the images was a small amount of cropping.)













To Him Who made the skies, all praise and glory be.

Garden Stories (#2)

As noted in the last post, it has been an unusually hot and dry summer. Hence, the bird bath has been a very popular spot. Mostly for the birds -but I have caught squirrels climbing up and drinking from it. And sometimes, when I get up in the morning, some night creature has overturned it while seeking water.

In the late spring, it was particularly fun to watch the parent animals acclimating their young to my backyard. I’m sure this happens every year but I noticed it more this spring. The adults seemed to supervise or instruct the little ones a bit and then pull back to let them try things on their own.

One of my favorite sets of images came from the robin family’s bird bath lessons. Although I may have shared this with one or more of you, I must post it here as well – it is too lovely to keep to myself. Did I mention that I overheard a bit of the conversation between the father robin and his offspring?




such joy to plunge in waters cool

shaking feathers free of dust

ready once again to fly…


Garden Stories (#1)

I have been absent for a bit from the blogging world. Time for a new series of images to wake up my heart.

The garden is such an ordinary place – look out the window, slip out the door, camera and me, and – behold! Unburied treasure.

Often we encounter simple beauties, a leaf, an insect, a blossom. But, as Dostoevsky tells us, love them all and “perceive the divine mystery in things”.

And so we open our hearts to the divine in small mysteries.

And this year has had much mystery in it. Our spring and summer were born out of a very mild winter – oddly mild, so much so that we weren’t sure that we had had winter.

The plants too were unsure, waking up too soon, some never having gone fully to sleep. Early riotous blooms resulted – and then everyone was buried in snow. Most survived but no one knew what time it was.

And now we pay the price with hot, dry summer days that leave all of backyard creation gasping for water – only hours after the last outpouring of precious reserves from rain barrels.

To walk through the garden a little each day… Let us begin by going back in time…



Last year, a dear friend moved away, leaving behind the garden of her heart. Before she left, she invited me to her house where she dug up little living gifts to move from her garden to mine.

Her garden was always so full and lush. I was honored that my hard, rocky soil would receive some of this new life. I only hoped we would be worthy of the gift.

To my delight, this spring I found bright blue blossoms hiding behind my tulips – blossoms that had never been there before. Forget-me-nots.

I will not forget. The love. The generosity. The gift. The friend.

The divine mystery in things.

To Him be glory. Amen.