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Seeds of Kindness

Seeds from a Writer's Garden





Murphy is our new library friend. He first entered the library on Halloween. He was in costume, wearing a giant sunflower that encircled his head. My library director, completely smitten, took his trainer's phone number, passed it on to me and I called. This is what happened.


I called Sarah, his trainer, and learned that Murphy is a certified therapy dog. He's been visiting folks at a nursing home and an assisted living facility. Murphy is a big dog, a very big dog; part Newfoundland and part Great Pyrenees and I guess he has to be that big to hold all the love inside. This I knew when Sarah came to the library so Murphy and I could meet in person.


We all agreed he might like Storytime. And so they came, Sarah and Murphy, and the mamas and their babies and the grandparents with their grands and caregivers with their littles. Somehow Murphy knew not to lick the babies. The babies, however, did not mind this big furry face in front of them. What they did was smile wide, laugh and pump their arms up and down; so excited, so in love, knowing a dear friend was before them. The toddlers were happy to look into Murphy's eyes. The preschoolers showed him board books and had an endless supply of hugs and gentle pats. The caregivers and parents and grandparents were thrilled. One of our trustees came to visit - with her camera - and yes, I took a picture of the two of them posing.


Dear Murphy. It is hard to believe that when he was a puppy, he fit in Sarah's palmed hands. She knew right from the beginning that he had qualities about him that were rare. I am so glad she recognized his love of people and decided to go through training.


When I look into Murphy's dark eyes, I wonder Who are you? It gives me such a feeling as if I am seeing a wise soul that chose to come back to this life in the body of a dog. There most certainly is something special about him. I'm not the only one. Sarah tells me that when she is attending events around the community and folks get to chatting and she says that she has a certified therapy dog, the response is "Oh, you mean Murphy." This makes me smile. He is winning hearts.


Well, Murphy was such a hit at Storytime that he has been invited back. Now he comes after school on Thursday afternoons so children can read to him. They also tell him stories and there is lots of cuddling and the room fills up and there is a calm that rests on everyone; children who typically don't play together are putting a puzzle together, a father who came to get a little work done sits in an easy chair instead, his twins on his lap, reading story after story, adults who have never met are becoming friends and Murphy flops onto the floor, happy just to be with everyone.


Dear Murphy. A true friend.

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     Lucky lived in a henhouse with her hen friends until the day she was the last one remaining.


     Her owner felt sorry for her so he carried her over to Hannah and Ron's and there she adapted to her new environment. That was, of course, after the ruckus that went on with the other chicks who wanted nothing to do with her. Yet, her winning personality won them over and there she lived, laying eggs and pecking for food until the day she was the last one remaining. Yes, once again.


     Hannah and Ron felt sorry for her and so Peter, my husband, and I arrived with a large plastic tote in the back of our Subaru. In she went without a peep of protest. We were gifted shavings and pellets and mealworm, and we headed home, believing our friendly, lovable hens would welcome her in. Lucky enjoyed the ride. We heard only a single short bawk.


     Once home, Peter set her into the henhouse. Oh dear!! What a ruckus. Talk about a pecking order! He walked back toward the house, Lucky tucked safely under his arm. "This isn't going to work."


     He put up a barrier in the henhouse to protect her; a piece of wire fencing about 5 feet high. He set down food. He cut a piece out of the wire so she could get to the water. She survived the night.


Lucky and her new friends


     It took a few days but the other hens finally realized Lucky was not a predator. They calmed down. Three days later, Peter entered the henhouse early in the morning and there was Lucky, roosting on the wire. On top of the wire! Not even a quarter of inch to place those chicken feet. There she was, balancing on that wire, swaying back, swaying forward, staying balanced. Well, Peter thought it the funniest thing. He kept wondering how she could have flown up there. It wasn't like she could get a running start. My goodness. This hen is something special.


     That day the wire came down, and Lucky was welcomed into the flock.


     Now, before I tell you what happened next, you have to realize that these hens have been in retirement. They haven't laid an egg in a long time. Still, we are attached to them and we've accepted that they are comical lawn ornaments that entertain the neighbors.


     And then … Lucky laid an egg. Not only did she lay an egg but she put a little swirl flourish on top. Well, by golly. (This is the moment we named her.)


     Here's the thing: Our other hens were greatly inspired for about a week later, there were two eggs in the nesting box. A few days ago, there were three. My goodness. We aren't buying eggs anymore; a dozen and a half are in the fridge right now.


     So, there you are; the story of Lucky, a pretty hen with a lot of pluck.



Lucky's egg

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What had once been

Monarch caterpillars on carrot tops in my vegetable garden



     I was surprised and amazed when I discovered two caterpillars on the carrot tops right there in my vegetable garden. I had watched my neighbor mow and mow and mow his field - all summer long, and it left me sad and annoyed because he was cutting down all the milkweed and the Monarch butterflies know to come to this field. They are there every year. Not this year. And yet, there they were - two caterpillars in my vegetable garden.


     My mind went to something I read in Wallace Stegner's book, Crossing to Safety. Here it is, Page 237: "Air moving uphill from the woods and lake stirred the seeding flower-heads of Delphinium that rose above the wall. A Monarch butterfly caught in the draft was lifted twenty feet over our heads. I saw Sid look away from Charity's unsteadily insistent glance to follow the Monarch's movement. Perhaps he was fantasizing, as I was, that there went part of what had once been the mortal substance of Aunt Emily or George Barnwell or Uncle Dwight, absorbed by the root of a beech tree in the village cemetery, incorporated into a beechnut, eaten by a squirrel, dropped as a pellet in a meadow, converted into a milkweed stalk, nibbled and taken in by this butterfly, destined to be carried south on a long, unlikely, interrupted migration, to be picked off by a flycatcher, brought back north in the spring as other flesh, laid in an egg, eaten by a robbing jay and laid as another kind of egg, blown out of a tree in a windstorm, soaked up by the earth, extruded as grass, eaten by a freshening heifer, some of it foreordained to be drunk, as Charity said, by its own descendants with their breakfasts, some of it deposited in cowpads, to melt into the earth yet again, and thrust upward again, immortal, in another milkweed stalk preparing itself to feed more Monarch butterflies.

    Fragile as tissue, the butterfly wavered off and away."


     A few days later, I went into the garden to check on these caterpillars. They were gone. A tasty snack for a bird? Maybe. One thing I do know. They are back in the cycle, and it is good.

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Each Day is a Gift

Red morning sky opening a new day.


What if …

     We settled into our writing time "preparing for visitation and voyage." Knowing full well our limitations, yet having faith that our creative endeavor will "find its own direction." John O'Donohue, Irish teacher and poet, writes: "Each of us is an artist of our days; the greater our integrity and awareness, the more original and creative our time will become."

     For me, this is a lovely reminder to relax so I may truly enjoy my writing time, even cherish my writing time. What if I allow myself to fall into the otherworld, the worlds within my imagination, to feel the words flowing through me, curious where it will lead? Each writing day can be an adventure. Shoulders release, tension dissolves and I am aware of my breath; each life-giving breath as I open my mind and my heart to possibilities.

Blessing is "… where the clenched question will open in the house of surprise …" John O'Donohue

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Telling a Story

Here I am - Little Red Riding Hood at the Fairy Tale Festival (Sherburne Library, Killington.) So much fun to be a participating library at this celebration of Vermont libraries. I am representing Jeudevine Memorial Library.



     My first public performance as a storyteller was in my first grade classroom. I remember sitting on the floor playing a game with my classmates when my teacher, Ms. Foster, came over to remind me that it was my day to read aloud to the class. My heart skipped a beat. I'd forgotten my book. Was I in trouble?


     Trying to be helpful, I offered a solution. "I forgot my book but I remember the story. I could just tell it."


     Ms. Foster wasn't the least bit upset. She smiled. "Yes, you may tell the story."


     She dragged her teachers chair to a spot where the other children had room to sit in a semi-circle before me. I scooted up onto her roomy wooden chair and sat, my legs dangling back and forth, and I began telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Having read the book so many times, all I had to do was to look into my mind's eye and there were the illustrations and I could see the words printed on the page. I actually read the book, pages turning in my mind. Every one of my classmates listened, no one talking, no one fidgeting.  


     As a grown woman, a grandmother now, I am in wonder of that child's poise and ability to do such a thing. I was a shy child. Yet that day I confidently told a story.


     Something happened to me recently that reminded me of that day in first grade. I was visiting Wonderarts, a summer program for kids in our community. I'm the Youth Librarian at the village library and I was asked to come and read stories. Since the theme changed each week, I had brought several books with me that I thought would fit. The last class for the morning was 4th, 5th and 6th graders. I showed them the book I was going to read but before I even began, one of the children piped up. "Can you read us the story you read last week?"


     I was so surprised at this request. When I had read the story the week before, I was thinking that it was too simple for this older crowd. Now, here I was getting a request.

"Well, I didn't bring that book with me today, but I remember the story. I could just tell it to you."


     That's exactly what I did. Everyone listened; no fidgeting, no talking. They had fallen into story. One boy in the back, leaning on his elbow, being his cool self, surprised me by exclaiming, "And then he …" and I said, "Yes, that's right… " and continued on. Toward the end of the story, a girl in the front said, "And then he made the little mouse." I couldn't help but smile. All the while that I was telling this story, I was in a state of amazement that this older group of students were so into this story.


     When the story came to an end, one of the counselors spoke in a soft voice. "That was a good story."


     Well, this was a wonderful moment - for me and for those listening. For a little while, we were no longer in this world. We were in the story. For a time, we all journeyed together. I'm certain I will hold this memory forever.


ps. The story I told was based on the book, My Grandfather's Coat by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock.

pss. I still love the story of Little Red Riding Hood

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Planting Good Seed

Shasta Daisies in golden late afternoon light

     When I think about seeds of kindness, I am reminded of a time several years ago when I planted Shasta Daisies from seed. These tiny seeds, maybe 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch in length, were placed in the soil in little containers during the last cold month of winter. Next to a window that received morning and afternoon light and not so far from the woodstove, I expected them to grow fast and to look hardy in only a few weeks, maybe a month. The seeds germinated and rose up out of the soil in only about a week and then the growth stalled. They reached a little over an inch in height and never grew taller. I couldn't figure it out. Not sunny enough? Not warm enough? Is the soil healthy? Are these energy-efficient windows not letting in UV light?

     Whatever the case, I was not one to give up so I continued to care for these fragile seedlings. When spring came and the soils in my garden warmed up, I planted the tender shoots and nurtured them like a mother hen, watering them gently and often. They were my babies.

     That first summer they did grow - not much but enough that I was encouraged. The following summer they were healthy and strong and by mid-summer, it was apparent that they would soon take over the entire raised bed, a bed I needed for growing vegetables. So, I began to transplant.

     Look at them now. My goodness. They border the flower garden. I transplanted again, and daisies bloom in a garden of their own at the end of the stone wall where they thrive in part sun, part shade near the Maple trees. I transplanted some to the front yard which is filling in nicely with all kinds of plants- a space we've been creating for pollinators (and will soon be a no-mow zone, an important goal for my husband especially.)

     Seeds. What seems insignificant at first can become magnificent. I think about this when writing a story. An idea sparks a few words on the page. That first burst of enthusiasm brings about the beginnings of a story, and then it stalls. Now what? Does it mean my idea wasn't good? Will this story even resonate with a reader? Should I give up?

     This is when I remember we need to nurture tiny seedlings. For you who is reading this blog, I want to remind you that no matter what art you are working on (or better yet, playing with) keep at it. We have to nurture our art in its beginning stages. We have to believe that our creativity is a beautiful and wonderful thing, and that the practice of our craft is where we find joy.

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