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Oh, if only it was that easy. Just follow the arrow and there it is, a lovely, lush interior garden.

Interior Gardens” is the name of the hydroponics and organic garden supply store I visited this weekend. While I pursue a lush exterior garden, I long most for lushness within. Instead, I am more like the ‘Secret Garden’ when it was first discovered.

“When it looks a bit greenish an’ juicy like that, it’s wick,” he explained. “When th’ inside is dry an’ breaks easy, like this here piece I’ve cut off, it’s done for. There’s a big root here as all this live wood sprung out of, an’ if th’ old wood’s cut off an’ it’s dug round, and took care of there’ll be-” he stopped and lifted his face to look up at the climbing and hanging sprays above him-“there’ll be a fountain o’ roses here this summer.” — “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I find hope in that — a fountain of roses (or Rose) this summer.

Right now, I’m eyeball deep in Master Gardener classes that I’m taking through the University of Minnesota. I have had modules on Lawn Care, Weed Management, Indoor Plants, Botany, Soils, Trees and Shrubs, Herbaceous Plants, Vegetable Gardening, and I just started learning about growing and harvesting fruits.

I am also working on setting up a hydroponic salad table to grow lettuces, basil, kale, and other greens as part of a trial for a non-circulating system. (You can find more information about the table here.) The table is built, the seeds have arrived, and all the nutrients, pots, and perlite have been purchased, just waiting for me to put it all together in my spare time.

No classes yet have told me how to grow spare time…

I got started on all of this because of my gardening interests and to counteract the dark effects of having a desk job that is so contrary to my nature. Drowning my free time in greenery and dirt is my attempt at maintaining some level of sanity.

Instead, I’ve gone completely bonkers — stressed and struggling to keep it all straight and meet deadlines both at work and at home.

And yet, a key turning in a door, an opening to something hidden, something “greenish and juicy” feels, oddly, just around the corner.

As I look out my window at the gray sky and trees waving in a cold wind, it’s hard to imagine growth, but I’m learning to not put too much stock in how things look.

This is cross-posted on Vision and Verb. And if you’re not read out yet, I have a few things to add here.

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Besides all the gardening education I’m in the middle of and the salad table I’m starting up, I’m also writing. Yeah, yeah, whatever Maery…

No really, I am! I even have a contract to write a minimum of fifteen minutes per day on my book and this contract has been signed by me and witnessed by a friend, and so far, I’ve kept my contractual agreement. I know, fifteen minutes sounds lame but it’s what I can do even on my most demanding days and it keeps me in the story, which has turned out to be key.
I thought the book project would fit just fine with my gardening studies and volunteer work as I was going to start a book about growth — for the plants and myself. But through many starts and stops and dreams and just that irritating gut knowing, it’s turned out that that particular book can’t be written until I finish the one I started fourteen years ago, before I got married. 
It’s unfinished business shaking its chains and banging cupboard doors open and closed, and that annoying voice coming from the attic (even though I don’t have an attic) saying, “Maery, you must finish “Midnight Mama” if you ever want us to go towards the light.”
I think there’s a smoke machine running during all of this and creaking stairs… no wait.
There are doors slowly creaking open (rrrrrreeeeek), I turn to look but then behind me I hear  slow, methodical footfalls (click, click, crick, creak) on the stairs.

I only tell you all this as a way of politely saying, expect me to be weird, okay weirder, for awhile. It’s hard work. It’s a hard story. The thing is, I have a feeling that finishing that story will be the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Okay, I am not confident in that feeling, but I am moving forward regardless.

So I ask for your understanding and patience if I don’t make sense at times. Or if I do start making sense, because that would really be strange.

It just means I’m working something out. And that’s a good thing. Seriously, it is.

Even with only a brief visit from my son, my house feel oddly empty after he leaves. I long to make him another cup of coffee and see him standing in my kitchen, stirring in cream and sugar.  I even miss watching the smoke drift past my living room window, as he stood outside on the back steps, smoking a cigarette.

Am I the only parent who leaves the radio station set to the music my child likes for at least a few days after he’s gone and occasionally turns back to it, just to feel closer than the many states between Minnesota and New York make physically possible?

The second day of Lain’s visit, we went to see “Les Miserables” then spent a couple hours trying to figure out what exactly that play/movie was about. I found the love story part of it obscenely stupid (fall in love because of a brief sighting of each other across the street?). Maybe I’m jaded (feelings, nothing more than feelings), but that part of the story was fairly irritating.

So we tried to redeem the movie by coming up with theories about  the symbolic rather than literal meaning of the story, like love and hope conquering all difficulties. We also pondered why the heroes and heroines seemed to end up living the rich, privileged life that the French revolution fought against. Hmmm…

The last full day that Lain was visiting, we went on a photography field trip. My son made a good model to work on portrait photography and we managed to find some other volunteers.

This Tyrannosaurus Rex didn’t want his photo taken at first and got kind of belligerent. 

But Lain managed to befriend him.

There was no need to feel we were in danger anyway as we had someone watching over us.

Oh look! A familiar New York face!

Then we ventured across the street to this landmark structure. I’ve never been able to figure out how this place stays in business since I rarely see anyone parked there except one car, the one that belongs to the guys that work there.

When we pulled up, there was a sign on the door that said they’d be back in 30 minutes. Not knowing when those 30 minutes started, we didn’t hang out for very long. I mean, it’s a little lot creepy. But creepy and unusual is good in photography right?

But all good visits eventually come to an end, and Monday it was back to the old work routine. Lately, I have this weird feeling where my real life – my work life – doesn’t feel real. I’ve begun to think of this as my Clark Kent by day life, followed by my Super Maery by night and weekend life.

So since I’m editing these photos and writing this on Monday evening, and I’m struggling with some kind of mind, blowing ending paragraph, and can’t come up with one, I’ll just sign off with this rather lame statement…
“This life is a job for Super Maery! So up, up and away!”

I hope you got to spend this holiday season in whatever way makes your insides happy.

I had hoped to have a more poetic, humorous, and entertaining post put together, but then it’s the holidays and there has been so much to do. There’s a bit of humor towards the end, including my imitation of Puft the Marshmallow Man from the “Ghostbusters” movie.

Here’s a few photos of Shy trying out her gift from Steve. She’s an old cat and generally not interested in toys, but because the ball runs around the track very fast and switches directions on it’s own, it caught and kept Shy’s attention for quite awhile.
Yeah, there was a bit of catnip involved.
And now to interrupt this fascinating post with a bit of medical information, in case you’re interested: 
 
Shy is in the beginning stages of kidney disease. I’ve switched her over to a special diet and discovered she much prefers the Purina NF Kidney Function brand to the Hill’s Prescription k/d/ diet. So if you have an animal with a similar problem, who won’t eat Hill’s, do try Purina.
 
I’ve also started Shy on Dasuquin for her arthritis, which contains chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine and avocado/soybean unsaponifiables. It seem like I’m seeing a change already in her activity and sociability level.
 
We will now continue with our regularly scheduled program…
In the past, if Java and Latte received their own separate toys for Christmas, they would always decide the only good toy was the one that Java had, so they received one toy to fight over this Christmas. Latte has already begun to destroy it.
While Java patiently waits for an opening to steal the toy away.
Steve spent most of Christmas Eve slaving over a recipe called King Haakon’s Cake to take to a family get-together. It’s a Norwegina recipe that incorporates the almond paste that seems to be so common in Norwegian baking, and is named after one of a long-line of Norwegian Kings named King Haakon.
There were a few tense moments pulling the finished product off, but in the end, it turned out beautifully.
There was pre-Christmas frolicking fun also. Steve and I decorated our bikes with battery operated Christmas lights and headed over to a friend’s house to ride around the neighborhood and see the decorated houses.
The attached video doesn’t quite capture the full effect but will give you an idea of what I’m talking about. It was a lot of fun, with several honks and waves by cars passing by. It was one more superb idea from my friend Sue that I’m glad I participated in. I’d like to go out again on New Year’s Eve (before anyone that’s been drinking is out on the road).

Did I mention there was a rowdy game of Reverse Charades later that evening? The most entertaining charade was a portrayal of the words “Kitty Litter”. I’ll let you use your imagination…

I hope you have been enjoying the holidays as well! And have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!

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