A Perfect Day for Dabeners

I sip my coffee at dawn while looking out at what promises to be a beautiful day. The light is soft, as if it were filtered to help sleepy eyes transition from the darkness of night to daybreak. Tender green leaves have sprouted from buds on the tree branches that etch the skyline. On the ground, tightly-rolled hosta and lily of the valley shoots peek out from the rich, dark earth. In a few weeks, they too will burst open and their leaves will reach for warmth of the sun or the refreshing feel of a gentle rainfall.  

Our region has been enjoying unseasonably hot, dry weather – ideal for dabeners like me. Dabener: One who dabbles in gardening. I made the word up but it fits me perfectly. In the spring, I’m ecstatic to be let loose in the outdoors after a long, cold winter. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I revel in digging in the dirt. When the humidity and mosquitoes arrive, my enthusiasm quickly fades. But for today – and hopefully for a few weeks to come – I can be a happy dabener.

By late afternoon, the hard, bright sunlight of mid-day softens again and the heat begins to dissipate. I kneel in the shade by a flower bed, the soothing scent of cedar mulch wafting in the air around me. My hands are deep in the earth as I prepare the ground for two new plants: a white bellflower and a ruby bell.  With a little luck – actually make that a lot of luck – by summer they will bloom and add a splash of color to the garden.

For a moment, as I dig I feel my fingers become roots that lengthen and run like tree roots in an underground network that is a marvel of nature. There are no wires, no server, no cloud or websites – only my hands buried in the mystery of a universe that, when stripped of man’s intervention, is still as beautiful as it is simple. For a moment, I am connected to the earth and to the sky, a part of the magic of that universe. Then the moment passes and I am just a dabener doing her best to create a little piece of paradise in her backyard.


Crazy 8s for Mother’s Day

Photo by Erik Mclean: https://www.pexels.com

When I was young, I remember struggling to fan the playing cards in my small hands when my mother taught me to play Crazy 8s. She’d wait patiently as I carefully scanned my cards, searching for one in the right suit to discard or, failing that, pick one from the deck on the table. Nothing gave me more pleasure than shouting “last card!” before discarding it on my next turn. I seemed to win a lot back then … the odds must have been in my favour.

Now my mother’s memory is fading … fast. Last Saturday, my two brothers and I moved her to the assisted living wing of her nursing home and the stress made things worse. Although we placed her clothing in the same drawers of her dresser as before (socks and underwear in top drawer; pyjamas in second drawer; sweaters and t-shirts in third drawer, etc.), she couldn’t find them. When I visited her on Tuesday, she was wearing the same clothes as on move day. She’d also been sleeping in them since there was no clothing or pyjamas in the hamper. (Each of my brothers visited her on the Sunday and Monday, but they were more attuned to what needed to be done in the apartment than to her wardrobe.) So we started a system whereby one of us calls her in the morning to direct her to clean clothing and one at night to remind her to put her PJs on.

Her eyes, ears and mobility are far from what they used to be too. And her morale, understandably, is not good.  We are the only family she has left and the last of her friends passed away a few years ago. She spends long hours going through photo albums mourning the loss of the people who used to be in her life as well as her physical and cognitive abilities.

When I visited her for Mother’s Day I tried to distract her by suggesting we play Crazy 8s. Now it was my turn to wait patiently while she struggled to hold the cards in her gnarled fingers. “These cards are so slippery!” she said but we knew that wasn’t the problem. But the expression on her face as we played was priceless.

For the first time in a long time, she was interested in something! She was fully absorbed in the game, glancing at the upturned card on the table, and then scanning her hand for one in the same suit. When she had an 8, she gleefully laid it down, signaling a change in suit. Then she sat back in satisfaction, eyes on me, waiting to see what my next move would be.

I’ll admit, her eyesight being what it is, she sometimes confused spades with clubs or diamonds with hearts, and I just went with it. It seemed only fair that the odds finally be in her favour all these years later.

It’s a dog’s life

I was stopped at a red light today when I saw movement from the left corner of my eye. I turned to see the passenger window of the car to my left glide down and the curly, russet-coloured head of a Labradoodle appear. The dog poked its big, wet, black nose out the window and gave me a friendly look. (Don’t ask me how I knew it was friendly, I just did.)

Then he tilted his nose skyward and sniffed the air as if it were the best thing he had ever smelled. His eyes almost closed in pleasure. The light turned green and the driver edged ahead. The dog leaned hard out the window, looking forward with his big ears flapping in the wind behind him. He turned to look back at me again and he was grinning that big, silly grin that dogs do.

That was it – a big silly smile lit up my face too! It also got me to thinking that it’s not always a bad thing to “live like an animal”.

A few days ago, I wrote about how watching my “senior” mare gave me insight into aging gracefully. Today this dog reminded me of that all-important lesson so many of us are trying to learn right now: live in the moment.

The dog wasn’t reviewing a “to-do” list in his head or worrying about things he can’t control. He was just having a good old time sniffing the air and feeling the wind whip through his fur. I decided to take a page from his book; I rolled my window down, turned the radio on and enjoyed the ride.