GratiTuesday Guest Post: MARS Garden Tour

Guest post by Donna, Retirement Reflections

For the past twenty-seven years, The Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society (MARS) has organized an annual MARS Garden Tour on Vancouver Island. Participants have the opportunity to view backyards (of all shapes and sizes) that have been transformed into innovative sanctuaries. Although I am not a gardener, I look forward to attending this event each year. Below are a few highlights from our recent self-guided tour.

This property is one block down from our home. I’ve passed it hundreds of times, never knowing that there was an oasis hiding behind the cedar hedge!

These Master Gardeners had the right idea. Wine was served in the side yard, while tea was waiting on the front porch.  Centrally located chairs in the backyard made a perfect spot to soak in the serene sights, sounds, and fragrance. I wanted to move in!

One property owner said that she had worked steadily for the past three months to prepare for this Garden Tour. She is no stranger to hard work. Above is a photo of the house when she and her husband first bought it in 2008. Beside it is a photo of what her home looks like today. BTW – Richard REALLY wanted to drive away in their car.

At our next stop, these flowers caught my eye. Any plants that admit they ‘R. Grumpy’ are plants to which I can relate! (For those of you more interested in actual gardens, than wordplay, this rhododendron is a yakushimanum hybrid. It thrives in cooler climates and can reach three feet in height. It produces creamy flowers that are tinged pink in mid-spring. See, I was listening!)

Can you tell that my camera was attracted to bright colours, textures…and water views?

As in previous years, this garden tour also included:

  • Displays by local artists,
  • Floral art arrangements,
  • Master Gardeners to answer questions,
  • Music,
  • Refreshments,
  • Attendants at each garden to assist participants.

If you have the chance to visit this, or a similar garden tour, I highly recommend it.

As with so many enriching community events (that are often taken for granted), endless volunteer hours are required to make everything happen smoothly. Many of these generous volunteers remain unseen.

A heartfelt thank you to all who have worked tirelessly to put together the MARS Garden Tour (and so many other community events like it). When you have the opportunity, why not consider volunteering to support a well-loved activity in your community? Your efforts may make more of a difference than you realize.

Is there an annual community event in your area that you look forward to attending each year?

From Janis:

Thank you, Donna, for sharing your GratiTuesday guest post with us! A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into putting on these community events as your pictures from the beautiful MARS Garden Tour illustrate.

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Donna’s blog, please check it out. Her tagline, “New Chapters, New Discoveries and New Adventures” says it all.

Please stop by next Tuesday when Pat from Retirement Transition shares her gratitude.

GratiTuesday: Sharing Space

Every so often, I have been invited to write guest posts for other people’s blogs. I am always extremely flattered to be asked and happy to do it if I can. Our blogs are very personal, and we put a lot of time and thought into their proper care and feeding. To be asked to contribute our words to another blogger’s site requires a leap of faith on their part. Even though the blog owner always has the right to edit, it’s important to have an initial confidence in the person writing the guest post. The expectation is that the post will be one that they are happy to share with their followers.

One of the positive benefits of guest posting is the exposure you get to a whole new audience. Even though you might share a few – or many – followers, chances are pretty good someone new will read what you’ve written and click on over to your blog. Each time I’ve been a guest on someone else’s blog, I’ve been pleased to gain several new followers. In addition, I’ve discovered a few bloggers whose comments on my guest post have led me to their blog.

For the next seven Tuesdays, I am sharing my space with bloggers that I have followed for a while. I have met two of them in person, but the others feel like friends too, because that’s what blogging does: it brings people together, builds a community, and creates relationships with people you probably would never have met in the non-blogging world.

Donna, from Retirement Reflections, will be my first guest host on Tuesday, June 5.

I am grateful that these seven bloggers said “yes” to me when I asked them to contribute a GratiTuesday post. I am also grateful for all their time and effort (they have their own blogs to manage, after all). I hope you enjoy reading what they’ve written and, if they are new to you, I’d be grateful if you checked out their blog too.

GratiTuesday: Busy Bees

Last December, the United Nations General Assembly designated each May 20 going forward as World Bee Day. The purpose of the proclamation was to bring to the world’s attention the importance of preserving bees and other pollinators

I’m not sure if you noticed, but your bees didn’t take Sunday off to celebrate. Nope, they continued to tirelessly work in your yard and in the fields to ensure their important work got done.

Bees play a crucial role in increasing crop yields and promoting food security and nutrition. Without them, we would have ceased to exist long ago. We eat their honey, we use their wax, and we rely on them to help our food grow. Bees are responsible for pollinating nearly 85% of all food crops. A third of all food produced in the world depends on pollination.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of bee species die off each year due to a variety of factors, including disease, parasites, pesticides, and the destruction of their main food sources. As more species die, we will lose crops and, eventually, certain plants will become extinct because they can’t reproduce. The fate of bees can also indicate when environmental dangers exist. Mass bee deaths have been past indications of the use of toxic chemicals, or severe climate changes, giving scientists further proof of how fragile our environment really is. In fact, research indicates that our environment would collapse if honeybees no longer existed.

So, if you didn’t get a chance to thank your bees last Sunday on World Bee Day, today is a great day to tell them how grateful you are for all their hard work. And, even better, here are a few concrete steps you can take:

  • Do not use any pesticides, fungicides or herbicides on plants or in your garden.
  • Plant your garden with native and bee friendly plants. Lawns are bee deserts.
  • Provide water for bees by putting out a little water basin for the bees to drink from during the warm days of summer. Put a few stones and floating cork on the water so bees won’t drown.
  • Buy local and raw honey from your local beekeepers.
  • Educate yourself, your children, and your grandchildren about bees. The Pollinator Partnership is just one source of great information about bees and their importance to our world.

GratiTuesday: Whimsy on Wheels

My car is boring. It has the standard four wheels, hood and trunk, and interior with front and back seats. It is dark gray. Big whoop.

I saw my first Art Car many years ago in the parking lot of a local grocery store. I was on my way home from work and, since it was winter, it was getting pretty dark. In my hurry to get home, I might not have noticed the car except that it was all lit up – both inside and out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera with me, so I wasn’t able to take a picture of the chassis-mounted Christmas confection.

Several months later I was thrilled to see the car again, parked on a frontage road. This time I had my phone, so I was able to snap a picture. It was daytime, so it didn’t have the same magical quality, but I was pleased to capture its wonderfulness nonetheless.

I’ve seen a few Art Cars since then and have discovered that they are an actual “thing”. A simple search on the googles results in tons of information, including amazing images, locations of Art Car parades, and instructions on how you (yes, you) can create your own Art Car.

Wikipedia defines an Art Car as: “a vehicle that has had its appearance modified as an act of personal artistic expression. Art Cars are often driven and owned by their creators, who are sometimes referred to as “Cartists”. Most car artists are ordinary people with no artistic training”.

Maybe many of these cartists have no formal artistic training, but they do have an abundance of creativity, a playful spirit, and the desire to share their masterpieces with others. This VW van, below, was on display at a local Tiki celebration weekend.

My latest Art Car encounter occurred just this past week. As I was out running errands, I saw this glorious vehicle out of the corner of my eye and had to stop. Not only was I able to see another of these cars up close, but I had the pleasure of meeting Jesus Garcia, the cartist, and all-around good guy. He was nice enough to spend about half an hour with me showing me his car and patiently answering all my questions (“Why did you decide to start decorating your car?” “What do you use as adhesive?” “What was the first object you placed on your car?” etc, etc, etc.).

A joy to behold!
Jesus Garcia, Cartist Extraordinaire.
Hard to miss coming at you in your rearview mirror.
The elk on the saw blade started it all.
How many creatures can you see?
The interior is as crazy as the exterior.

I will almost certainly continue to own conventional cars. Introverted me rather likes driving around without attracting much attention. I also try to avoid dings and scratches that mar the surface. On the other hand, I love that not everyone is just like me. I do so very much appreciate people who view their autos as very large blank slates begging to be decorated. I am grateful that they have the creativity and courage to pick up that first piece of whimsy and glue it to their car.

GratiTuesday: Buy Nothing Project

It’s a simple concept really, one that has been around forever: neighbors helping neighbors. Borrowing a cup of sugar, lending a tool, or handing down clothes your child has outgrown. Because of social media, this transfer of items – no longer needed by one person but wanted by others – can extend beyond a few houses on a single block.

I discovered the Buy Nothing Project through another local Facebook site and was immediately intrigued. As anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, my husband and I have been focusing on getting rid of stuff. Most of our unwanted items are donated to our local charity shops or, sometimes, listed on eBay, but what about those items that don’t fit neatly in the Donate or Sell boxes? Things like half-used but perfectly good pads of paper, or partially used colored pencils, or three-ring binders that are no longer needed? Do we have to just throw them away? Despite our desire to get rid of clutter, we didn’t want to add to the landfill… especially if someone else could use them.

The Buy Nothing Project (buynothingproject.org) Mission Statement says it all:

We offer a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors.

How great is that?

Here are just some of the listings found recently on our local Buy Nothing Facebook page: gently used shoes, a bag of yarn, board games, succulent cuttings, wine corks, a need for a ride to the doctor, an offer of lemons from a backyard tree, some used-once but no longer wanted skin lotion, a baby seat. (By the way, that baby seat gift was followed up by a delightful gratitude post showing the new owner’s baby enjoying his gifted seat. After he is done with it, my guess is that the seat will be regifted to someone else.)

On the Buy Nothing Project About page, you can learn more about their vision and principles, and find a group near you to join. What if there isn’t already a group in your area? They also provide information about how you can set one up.

The Buy Nothing Project started in 2013, when two friends, Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, created an experimental hyper-local gift economy on Bainbridge Island, WA. I am grateful to them for having the vision and a shared belief in the kindness of others. Their little experiment in community giving has become a worldwide social movement, with groups in 20 nations.

GratiTuesday: May Day

I don’t know if it’s still done, but I have happy elementary school memories of making construction paper May Day baskets and dancing around the maypole on the school playground. Even though spring officially begins in March, it didn’t feel like it had really arrived until the first of May, when we all dressed up, performed the folk dances we learned, and wound the brightly colored ribbons around the maypole.

This winter has been especially challenging for many of you, and spring never really made an appearance until just recently. Many have written about the relief they are feeling to say goodbye to April’s snow and sleet, and welcome to May’s warmer temperatures.

In our corner of the U.S., we’ve experienced quite the opposite. Both winter and spring temperatures have been warmer than average and the little rainfall we received has been especially disappointing. In fact, it looks like we may be in the middle of the driest rainy season on record. Ironically, local meteorologists are predicting a 50% chance of rain starting this evening and into tomorrow. After that, zilch for the foreseeable future.

Despite the unusual weather we’ve been experiencing just about everywhere (or, maybe it’s the new normal we all need to get used to), I love the promise of May. Maypoles may be a relic of the past in most places but the warming weather, longer daylight hours, and emerging flora and fauna still make me want to do a little dance of gratitude to Mother Nature.

GratiTuesday: Tax Returns

Today is the filing deadline for federal and state taxes in the United States. Like just about everyone, I don’t relish the process of completing our tax returns nor do I enjoy writing a check and mailing it to the government.

But, here’s some of what I do enjoy:

  • I enjoy driving on well-maintained roads that are safe and free of potholes.
  • I enjoy having K-12 schools that are in good repair, provide students with up-to-date school books, and offer teachers salaries that allow them to live in the community where they work.
  • I enjoy having a quality college and university system that educates the workforce of the future.
  • I enjoy having police and fire departments that provide public safety.
  • I enjoy the fresh, safe drinking water that comes right out of the tap.
  • I enjoy visiting our state and national parks and want to maintain them for future generations.
  • I enjoy being able to access our public libraries and check out just about any book I want.
  • I enjoy our non-profit, award-winning Public Broadcasting System.
  • I enjoy having a strong national defense.
  • I enjoy the benefits of our government investing in science, technology, health research, food safety, public health services, and disease control.
  • I (will) enjoy the benefits of Social Security and Medicare and appreciate the safety net these programs provide.

While I am not comfortable with our country’s debt levels and I know our government could be more efficient, I know that much of what I enjoy would not exist without taxes. I may not be happy about writing that check, but I am grateful for the benefits that I get in return.

GratiTuesday: Hug a Librarian Day

I’ve always been a big fan of libraries and, since my retirement, my library card has gotten quite a workout. So, I was thrilled to learn that this week, April 8 – 14, is the 60th annual celebration of National Library Week. Sponsored by the American Library Association, National Library Week was created to recognize the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and promote library use and support.

The theme for this year’s National Library Week is “Libraries Lead”

 

Although most libraries will have their own locally-tailored events, the national celebration has identified four areas of focus for the week:

  • On Monday, the list of 2017’s Top Ten Most Challenged Books (compiled by the Office for Intellectual Freedom), was released. Of course, these ten books represent just a few of the many, many documented book challenges. If you click on over, you will probably be shocked at the books listed. You may also be surprised and saddened by the reasons given for their attempted – and sometimes successful – censorship.
  • Today is National Library Workers Day, a day to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.
  • Wednesday is National Bookmobile Day. This day recognizes the contributions of our nation’s bookmobiles and the dedicated professionals who make quality bookmobile outreach possible in their communities.
  • Thursday is Take Action for Libraries Day which is a national library advocacy effort observed for the first time in 2017 in response to proposed cuts to federal funds for libraries.
I love my neighborhood library

I’m thrilled that today is National Library Workers Day. I don’t know about your library, but mine is staffed by the nicest people. They certainly deserve a hug or, maybe better, a big tin of cookies or some other treat to tell them how much they are appreciated.

Today, this week, always, I am grateful for our libraries. I don’t think there has ever been a time when the important work they do has been as threatened. They deserve our heartfelt appreciation and, even more, our active support.

GratiTuesday: A Glorious Day

A beautiful spring day, temperatures in the low 70s, a cloudless blue sky, four friends who have known each other since elementary school, and a -0.81 low tide making the beach wide and the tide pools inviting.

Dear friends and walking buddies.
Clown fish
Scripps Pier
Scripps Pier
Scripps Pier
Rocks exposed during low tide.
Looking south towards La Jolla Cove.

I am grateful for the beauty of this day and the company of dear friends.

GratiTuesday: Spring’s Gifts

At exactly 9:15 (Pacific Time) this morning, winter became spring. Today – the vernal equinox – the sun crosses directly over the earth’s equator, making night and day approximately of equal lengths all over the world.

We switched our clocks to Daylight Saving Time a little over a week ago (I know that some people hate DST, but it makes me happy) and now, as the periods of daylight grow longer each day, I am grateful for the extra rays of sunshine that we will enjoy.

The orioles, who often nest in our neighborhood’s palm trees, are a delight to watch.

The hooded orioles have started to arrive after being away for the winter enjoying the serene climate of Southern Baja and mainland Mexico. I am grateful for their beauty and for the backyard entertainment they provide with their comical antics and happy chatter.

Bees have been busy pollinating the trees and making orange blossom honey.

After producing a tree full of tasty fruit during the winter months, our orange tree now is bursting with fragrant white blossoms. I am grateful not only for the blossoms’ heady fragrance that perfumes our yard but also for the promise of a new crop of oranges next fall and winter.

Although there might not be obvious indicators of the four seasons where I live, there are subtle changes that are noticeable for those who look for them. I am grateful for all the gifts of spring I see, and for those that nature still has in store.

The jacarandas will burst forth with their purple blossoms a little later in the spring.