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30 December 2009

GUEST BLOG: Reflection for a Happy New Year! Happy New Decade!

This guest blog--a teaching from the 11:11 Progress Group--pertains to spirituality in the old year and the coming new year, the new decade. Happy 2010!
Keep an eye out for the Blue Moon on New Year's Eve.

Photo by Colleen Smith
Computer enhanced detail from bas relief
at Art Institute of Chicago

“The message for today is about reflection on the past and planning for the future. As the closing of one calendar year approaches, it is helpful to evaluate one’s spiritual progress by self-reflection on positive changes in attitude and accomplishments in self-mastery, which were wholly absent only one year previously. Become aware and make note of these changes, and give thanks for the help you received from your guides, guardians, and teachers that led you to the place you are now. Have you become more tolerant, more loving, more patient, more giving? Have you embraced spiritual knowledge and teaching that has helped you to become aware of these more noble attributes of the growing soul? Take inventory of these things now, my beloveds, and bathe in the light of these accomplishments with tempered humility....
“Let us also become aware of the imperfections in our personalities and our attitudes towards others. Acknowledge the areas we still need to work on, and with great honesty. Hold them up in front of the ego, and declare that these areas shall be transformed, and will no longer serve as a hindrance to us, nor will they prevent us from attaining the spiritual freedom we so deeply desire.
“Let us go boldly into the future with great confidence, knowing all will be for the good of the soul and no ‘real’ harm can befall us. Allow more time for introspection as you face the challenges of life and let go of needless worries. Become increasingly aware of the spiritual guidance all around you and use this ‘spirit team’ to help you accomplish your goals and desires. And most importantly, be aware of your duty to serve others."


THE ARTS: Cynthia Madden Leitner & Museum of Outdoor Arts

I just happened across this article I wrote for Denver Woman News. This profile of Cynthia Madden Leitner explains why she founded the Museum of Outdoor Arts, why art needs to be part of everyday life, and why women between 50 and 65 rock.

Photo by Colleen Smith
Detail from a painting in Art Institute of Chicago


29 December 2009

THE ARTS: Meet My Auntie Artist

Meet my great-aunt Mary: an artist, a woman well ahead of her times, and one of my mentors. Mary was a fine artist, and she published a little chapbook of poetry that made a huge impression upon me when I was a girl. Learn more about her on the Friday Jones Publishing webpage.


24 December 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS: From my hearth to yours

"...may your days be merry
and bright."


23 December 2009

WELL BEING: Material VS Spiritual

I came upon this teaching today and wanted to post it for more people to consider as we enter another Christmas:

“Today’s message is about letting go of the material and commercial aspects of your religious traditions, and embracing a new and more spiritual way to worship and remember God’s visitations and promises to perfect humanity, and to bring peace and brotherhood to this confused and strife torn world. It is the Father’s will that love be the focus of all celebrations and in the joy of fellowship with your brethren, you come together in unity and project your intentions for a better future. To answer the Father’s call to perfection, we must continue to change and evolve our thinking, and put into practice those high ideals we have when caught up in the moment of celebration and ceremony.
“For thousands of years man has capitalized on the traditions and celebrations of religious holidays to turn profits by exploitation of man’s good nature and worshipful attitude to honor God. This exploitation has become so intense that the very meaning and spiritual inclinations of the celebration have been supplanted by clever commercial campaigns aimed at appealing to the vanity of the ego to fill the spiritual longings of oneness with God with material gratifications. This serves the money changers well, but leaves the soul and the pocketbook empty.
“Man has become a slave to this perpetuation of materialism in connection with his celebrations and religious festivals, and this leads to anxiety and depression in many, because they feel they have lost control and must conform to peer pressure to perform in opposition to the longings of the soul for sincere relationships, and worshipful unity.
“Let us focus on the ‘good will.’ What is the ‘good will?’ The ‘good will’ is God’s will, and His will for us is to enjoy life; to love Him; and to love one another. When anxieties and ill will enter into our traditions and festivals, we must change our way of approach. It is not my place to tell you how to live, but it is my desire that you become aware of that which you have become, and to hold your intentions to the light, and see if they embrace truth, beauty, and goodness. Begin a new tradition this year, one that is focused on love and relationship and less on material gratification. In the worlds to come, relationship is the gift of celebration, for material things are left behind with the flesh. Let us learn these lessons of love now, my beloved friends, and enjoy this precious time you have on the earth.
“Peace on earth, and good will toward all mankind."

For more information, Google the 11:11 group. Share/Save/Bookmark

22 December 2009

"At Christmas play and make good cheer..."

I hope you'll drop by my digital garden,
that is, my page on flowers and gardens,
where you'll find lots of entries on the history and lore of holiday plants like holly and mistletoe, delightful happenings in winter gardens, and more

Or drop by my new webpage for Friday Jones Publishing,
where you'll find details about my newest entrepreneurial endeavor.

Or strike up a friendship with me on Facebook.

Meanwhile, "At Christmas play and make good cheer for Christmas comes but once a year."

21 December 2009


Happy Winter Solstice!

I plan to join fellow yogis for a candlelight practice of 108 sun salutations tonight--my yogic salute to the season. Welcome, Old Man Winter!

Photo at right is a sculpture in Museum of Outdoor Arts' permanent collection. At Winter Solstice, he points to the sun at a certain hour.

For more about the history, mystery and science of Winter Solstice, please check out my 2-part series posted today on my page on flowers and gardens.

You'll also find seasonal entries on the following:
• The nature of holly,
• A Christmas carol--"The Holly and the Ivy"--sung by a boy's choir,
• Winter garden holiday light shows around Denver,
• Tips for winter houseplants,
• How-to guidelines for forcing paperwhite narcissus bulbs indoors,
• Great garden books, and more.

Please drop by my digital garden. Leave a comment, if you care to, or just wander around the page and enjoy the beautiful photography and inspirational quotes. Good Yule!

Mercury photo courtesy Museum of Outdoor Arts

13 December 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: "One of the few havens remaining"

Old books hold court in the old built-in bookcases in my old Craftsman bungalow. My grandmother gave me many of these beautiful volumes, but that handsome burgundy copy of "English Romantic Writers" is one of my favorites from my years as an English major at Iowa State University and University of Iowa. I still love the British Romantics.

Photo by Quincy Benton

“BOOKS: A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few sources of information left that is served up without the silent black noise of a headline, the doomy hullabaloo of a commercial. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.”

-- Edward P. Morgan


09 December 2009


28 November 2009

COLORADO COLLEEN: Alpine Skiing as Spiritual Exercise

Photo by Colleen Smith
Riding a chairlift in Vail's back bowls after a big snow in spring 2009

Skiing at its best is a spiritual exercise that takes us out of time and space and puts us up in the rarified air where-- according to many traditions--divinity resides.

Skiing has this restorative effect on me: Imagine one of those dry-erase boards. Imagine the board's surface riddled with writing and mathematical problems and lists of things to do and calendars with deadlines and shopping lists and packing lists and receipts and recipes and diagrammed sentences and notes-to-self and deadlines and worries and regrets and wonderings and musings and interview questions and passing thoughts and vocabulary words plus some random memories of dreams and welling insecurities and doubts and bothers and irritations and unanswered email and Facebook and posts I've been meaning to write for my blog and other demands. And did I mention deadlines?

Then, imagine that with every turn made on a ski run, an eraser wipes over that cluttered dry-erase board. Each turn wipes the slate cleaner and cleaner until all that's left is white. All that's left is the snow.

All that's left are the thoughts about when and where and how to turn, the sublime sight of jagged mountain peaks and the towering, fragrant forest and the ineffably blue sky, the thin air and the thick skin of my feet aware of snow and speed and fall line. All that's left is the feeling of flying, strafing the slopes, my season pass fluttering against my splashing heart working overtime at 11,000 feet above sea level. All that's left is gratitude for the experience and the ability and the opportunity and the exhilaration of the Alleluia sport and the heavensent snow.

22 November 2009

Happy Feast of St. Cecilia, Patron Saint of Music & Poetry

"Go out and make a joyful sound."
-- Jackson Browne

Photo by Quincy Benton

Today, November 22, marks the Feast of St. Cecilia, patron saint of musicians and poets. To venerate this great saint of creative endeavors, here are links to a few pieces I've published in The Denver Post on some of my favorite musicians: a feature on Jackson Browne, a quiz on Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band, and recent Reverb reviews of Keb Mo, Karla Bonoff , Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers and The Denver Brass. Tune in some of your favorite tunes today.

19 November 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Garrison Keillor on the Poet Sharon Olds

Photo by Quincy Benton

Some of last summer's secret garden blooms.

"I was a late bloomer.

But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky."

-- Sharon Olds

A literary and political friend forwarded to me Garrison Keillor’s A Writer’s Almanac today as “an antidote to Sarah Palin," but whatever your political persuasions, you’ll like Keillor’s keenly appreciative piece about the poet Sharon Olds. Her poems have appeared in 100-plus poetry anthologies. Just click here now. And if you like, sign up for a free subscription to A Writer's Almanac.

To read "Red-footed Humorist," my Q.&.A. with Garrison Keillor, published in The Denver Post, just click here now.


18 November 2009

GARDEN GATE: Look at this post on lavender--nature's way of keeping holiday stress at bay

Photo by Quincy Benton
Lavender, the lovely herb, will help you handle holidaze.

Here come the holidays. If just the thought of all the stress sends a shiver up your spine, remember that a little vial of lavender essential oil goes along ways toward peace of mind at a time of year that for many of us seems to stimulate anything but. Find out about how lavender can make your days more merry and bright--or at least a bit more calm.

15 November 2009

"From the serene heights of art": Thomas Mann on Truth, Reason, Freedom

Shot this photo recently at New Orleans Botanical Gardens.

“Truth and reason

may appear to be crushed

but in our hearts

they remain eternally free,

and from the serene heights of art

the intellect may laugh at the triumph of folly…

Secure in the bond relating it

to all that is best on earth.”

-- Thomas Mann

From DIESER FRIEDE, (THIS PEACE) published in 1938

Mann won the Novel Prize in Literature in 1929.


14 November 2009

WANDERLUST: Old Friends in New Orleans

Did you know that Walt Disney modeled his Cinderella's castle
after the Catholic cathedral in New Orleans?
One you know, you can never see this iconic architectural feature of Jackson Square the same.
Take a romantic carriage ride through the French Quarter
and get a history lesson about New Orleans--
one of the most intriguing places in this nation.
In New Orleans, crime is down; hospitality is up.
And your vacation dollars help this uncommon city continue their recovery.

Enjoyed an enchanting week in New Orleans, including Halloween on raucous and jam-packed Bourbon Street, where--against every odd--we bumped into old friends who led us to the party on Frenchman, where we got swept up in a fascinating festivity reminiscent of Mardi Gras, conducted--literally--by a big blue mouse. We joined the parade, delighting in masks and costumes and general pandemonium. Surreal revelry, to say the least.
The Big Easy is easily my favorite U.S. city. The music (Blues, Jazz, Zydeco), the food, the architecture, the history, the Mississippi River, the festivities, all tempered by the sad insights gained while volunteering in St. Bernard Parish after Hurricane Katrina combine to make this a place for me like no other.
Planning a get-away within the lower 48? Go to NOLA, where you often feel like you've left the country and landed in Europe. Crime is down; hospitality is up. And your vacation dollars help this uncommon city continue their recovery. I must say that on the Monday night of the rivalrous NFL game between the New Orleans and Atlanta, hoards of people were walking around in the Saints jersey with the number and name of Bush. Shocked me to the core that anybody in this city would wear their name on their back!

Here's a link to an earlier post on New Orleans. Just click here. You'll see this post again--sorry--but if you continue to scroll down you'll find an essay I wrote for the opinion pages of The Denver Post, plus some photos of a garden a friend and I planted at a home destroyed by Katrina.

09 November 2009

COLORADO COLLEEN: Introducing my Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer friend, Ken Papaleo

I met Ken Papaleo on assignment: Colorado Expression magazine had assigned me to do a profile on Ken, focusing on his hand-colored fine art photographs.

The photo above, titled "Nature's Window," is one example. Ken works from black and white photographs, painting in colored detail for a magic realism effect.

Ken's images stunned me. And when Ken and I met, we connected quickly, in part because we've both worked as journalists, and probably in larger part because we both ski. Ken had just come from buying new skis, in fact, and he was aglow like a kid with a shiny new bicycle.
Ken is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner photographer, a seasoned veteran on the staff of the now defunct Rocky Mountain News. He paid a price for his Pulitzer Prizes because he was on the fronts covering both the Columbine High School massacre and Colorado wildfires.
Left to his own devices, Ken prefers to focus on beauty. Mother Nature's beauty, particularly.
I was so impressed with Ken's photography that I incorporated an image per month for a year of issues of a national newsletter than I write and art direct. You'll love his photos, too, I promise.

For more on Ken and for links to his gallery and new blog, please check out today's entry on my page.
I've provided links so you can see delightful photography that will take your breath away and renew your sense of awe. Just click here now.


06 November 2009

COLORADO COLLEEN: Smiling in the Mountain Forest

Share/Save/Bookmark "You ask me why I make my home in the mountain forest, and I smile, and am silent, and even my soul remains quiet; it lives in the other world which no one owns." -- Li Po

Actually, I do not live in the mountain forest. I live in the urban jungle. But my head is in the clouds, anticipating ski season.

View from Vail Mountain
Photo by Colleen Smith

19 October 2009

TREBLE CLEF: Will Write for Music!

"Isn't it always love?"

-- Karla Bonoff

Sometimes, the tides turn in our favor.

This is one of those stories of serendipity, karma, or coinkydink: Whatever you call the web of life when happenings unfold in a mysteriously and uncannily connected manner.

James Baca, my photographer partner snapped this photo of me last month in Santa Barbara. We were winding down our 12th year of work there. Of the coastline drive, Thousand Steps is a touchstone spot for us in Santa Barbara--but that's another story. I only bring it up because Santa Barbara is significant in this story, in a roundabout way.

ON ASSIGNMENT: Santa Barbara sundown Photo by James Baca

Last fall, while flying home to Denver from the charming little open-air airport at Santa Barbara, James and I sat across the aisle from folk-rockers Karla Bonoff and Kenny Edwards. I'm a huge fan, have seen them in concert half a dozen times--initially when a freshman in college--so I thought I recognized the musicians. I noted that they were sharing a Rolling Stone. Then Kenny pulled out his Bose headphones, so I ventured a guess and I passed a note to Kenny: "Are you two musicians?" I jotted, "Because you like like Karla Bonoff and Kenny."

Kenny smiled and nodded. We both turned off our iPhone iPods, and we had a brief conversation. Turns out the musicians live in the Santa Barbara vicinity. Before we landed, I jotted down my email address and asked Kenny to keep me posted about Denver appearances because I would love to write a piece about them for
The Denver Post, where I for many years have contributed regularly and have begun writing more and more music pieces.

Subsequently, Kenny and I exchanged a couple of email messages, but did not quite make the connection.

We tried again before the show last Saturday at Swallow Hill. Karla was interested in doing an interview, but, alas, the Post was already filled. Freelancers tend to get caught in the middle: Sometimes the newspaper is willing, but the artist is not. Other times, vice versa.

On an upbeat note, however, Ricardo Baca invited me to join his roster of bloggers for Reverb,
The Post's online music blog. My maiden voyage into the Reverb waters was the Karla Bonoff concert. So all's well that ends well.
Here's a link to Reverb, which is a cool blog for music junkies. To check out my Karla Bonoff review, reviews of various genres, and lots of concert photo essays, too, just click here now.

And then go dig out your Karla Bonoff CDs and give them a whirl. And if you don't have her music in your collection, here's a link that allows you to order autographed copies at no extra cost. The website has her tour schedule, all her lyrics, info about Kenny Edwards' new solo CD et cetera. For Karla Bonoff's home page, just click here now.


11 October 2009

THE ARTS: Terrarium as art form

If you saw the terrarium I designed by request as part of "Cabinet of Curiousity" at Museum of Outdoor Arts, you might have logged on looking for instructions about how to create a terrarium.
Please click on this link to go to my page. Scroll down or search "terrarium" to find an entry titled "Terrarium as art form." You'll see a photo similar to this one. That post includes more details and links.

Photo by James Baca

If you're in the Denver area, don't miss the whimsical wonders at Cabinet of Curiousities" now showing at Museum of Outdoor Arts. This is art for everybody. Make a point to stop by the museum's indoor galleries housed in Englewood Civic Center. Your inner child will thank you, and so will the part of you that secrets away little items of nostalgic, nature or sentiment. MOA opens its doors free of charge.

"Support the arts,
and the arts will support you."

I'll conduct some more research on terrariums and will try to find more links.
Once I get the photos of the little terrarium from the exhibition's fun opening last night, I'll post them here, too. Meanwhile, for the exhibit, here's the label copy I wrote:

The roots of the terrarium

As early as 500 B.C., ancient Greeks grew and displayed plants in closed, transparent containers; but terrariums have their true roots in London. In 1827, London physician Dr. Nathaniel Ward discovered the scientific principle of terrariums.

Studying a moth emerging from a cocoon in moist soil, Dr. Ward noticed tiny ferns and grass growing in the earth contained in the jar. These plants, to the good doctor’s surprise, grew for years inside the jar without watering because the mini-greenhouse formed a miniature, self-sustained ecosystem complete with a water cycle.

Also known as Wardian Cases, terrariums allowed botanists to transport tropical plants safely from one continent to another, aiding the development of botany.

Ornately decorated terrariums grew in popularity as household decorations in Victorian times in the United States.

Today, all you need is a clear glass or plastic container to build your own terrarium, creating your own miniature ecosystem.


09 October 2009

NAMASTE': Meeting Baron Baptiste at His Yoga Immersion Day in Denver

Here's a thrill from my yoga mat:
That's me sharing a laugh and a high-five with yoga master Baron Baptiste, who founded Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga--one of three yogic traditions I've studied and practiced. I just opened my 18th year of practicing, and marked the milestone with the honor of meeting Baron last weekend when about 300 yogis joined him for a Baptiste Power Yoga immersion in Denver. My friend Lori and I unintentionally arrived very early and so we unrolled our mats in the very front row! We had just finished 3.5 hours of vinyasa. Whew. While Baron had us practicing headstands, I took the liberty of introducing myself since the two of us had talked at length on the phone during an interview for a piece I wrote about him for
fitness section of The Denver Post, which provided this photo. More on this later. I've been promising several friends I would post some comparing and contrasting of the three forms of yoga I've studied: Iyengar, Bikram, and Baptiste Power. Soon! But for now, namaste'.

05 October 2009

GARDEN GATE: Gardens Grow Communities--Three Anecdotes of Strangers in my Gardens

Many people as they walk or run or push a stroller past,
praise my gardens. (Thanks, in large part, to Mike Eagleton who designed much of my landscape, and to my crew that helps keeps it well tended.) But from time to time I have extended exchanges with strangers in my gardens.

Photo by Quincy Benton

Strangers In My Gardens

The other day, for the third time this growing season, I had a satisfying exchange with a stranger in my garden.
I had walked home slowly from yoga class, appreciative of the precious slant of warm midmorning autumn sunlight. When I had walked to class earlier that day at 7:45 a.m., I’d worn a ski cap and gloves, but when I made my way home at about 10 a.m., the day had grown warm and summery. I had plenty of work to do, but these balmy days of autumn seem almost as intoxicating as the first warm days of spring. Call it Autumn Fever.
It takes an optimist to plant this late in the season. I suppose I am mostly optimistic, but I know from experience that pansies are tough. Flowering kale, too, looks lacy and delicate, but in fact likes a bit of ice in its veins. So I’d made a sortie mission to Home Depot for a pair of pumpkins and a flat of pansies and five one-gallon pots of flowering kale.
When I should have been working at my laptop, I decided—given the beauty of the day—to work in the garden instead. I needed a gardening fix. I’d been on assignment and then had contracted a cold or flu or some such virus that had sapped me, yet I marshalled on and on, under the weather in Southern California. I had not been in my garden in nearly two weeks for any time to speak of--and both of us had suffered the separation, my garden and I.
My garden heals me. Grounds me. When I spend time in my garden, I cultivate something of my soul. Problems and concerns and other creative endeavors—words and images and ideas—simmer on the back burner. Gardening affords an incubation period. Drawn into the senses—the spicy smell of the roses, the paint box colors of the pansies, the prickle of the cosmos seeds as I collect some to share with a friend.

Pilfering memorial hollyhock seeds

So having contracted Autumn Fever, I hung out the "Gone Gardening" shingle and played hooky out of doors. I hustled from my secret garden to my front garden, schlepping my flat of pansies and replacing burgundy mums with ‘Frost Prince’ flowering kale in the ornamental concrete urns at the top of the first set of stairs in front. These urns were a gift to me many years ago. They have weathered well, and the urns stand as hybrid architectural and horticultural sentinels of my front stoop. I change out the plants in these urns several times over the season. In spring, pansies. In summer, succulents. In autumn, flowering kale, which I'd just planted and needed to water. As I walked down the stairs and headed to my spigot and garden hose on the side of my house, I spotted a scooter. The sporty thing parked just outside my porch, down the bank, in the middle of the sidewalk, looked like a joke of some kind. The scooter was definitely a girl scooter, painted the color of grape sherbet, but metallic, the color of chic lipstick or nail enamel.
I live along a busy one-way thoroughfare in a historic district of central Denver. Twice over 20 years, cars have veered off the avenue and careened through the gardens I've grown on the right-of-way alongside my house. But I’d never seen a scooter parked in the middle of my sidewalk. Curious, I looked around to see if somebody was having trouble.
Then, like a ghost appearing from a mist, a woman walked out from behind the tall pink hollyhocks of a plot I call Avenue Garden West for sake of naming a territory so as to somehow understand it and map it.
The first thing I noticed about this woman is that she held in one hand a Ziploc baggie and in the other hand a pair of scissors. Initially, I felt territorial. How dare she happen along and help herself to seeds from my garden without bothering to ask permission? I huffed a smidge, my feathers puffing, hackles up. Then, I chilled, remembering that gardeners are peaceable people, and realizing that I was flattered she was ransacking my garden for seeds. I felt profoundly appreciative, really, that somebody would want seeds from my garden enough to actually come collect them. She looked friendly enough. About my age, perhaps a bit older, she was attractive and funkily dressed with an aging-hippie-meets-urban-cool vibe.
“I’m collecting seeds to plant in a park,” she said, no apology.
I just said, “Oh.” I thought about asking whether she’d considered asking permission.
But before I could, she asked me about my hollyhocks.
I asked her about her park. She mentioned the name, a park I’d not heard of, which is not unusual since Denver has so many parks. I think the park had the name "Baca" in it. I asked her where it was. Somewhere in LoDo, she explained.
"A friend of mine committed suicide in that park a year ago in August," she said.
I cluck my tongue. “Awww,” I said, shocked, compassion rising in my throat. I was so glad I had not run her off my property earlier when I first discovered her snipping seeds sans permission. “I’m so sorry," I said. And I was.
“He was a flower guy,” the woman said matter-of-factly. “So I spent all this money putting in all these things. Tulips. All kinds of things. And nothing grew.”
“What a beautiful gesture for a memorial,” I said to her.

“Nobody has a black thumb”

She said, “I have a black thumb.”
“Nobody has a black thumb,” I said. “These hollyhocks? They're tough. They'll make it. You watch and see. And take some cosmos seeds, too.”
“Which ones are cosmos?”
“The purple ones,” I pointed to the bank behind her.
And she walked over to a sizable lavender shrub and touched a late bloom. “That’s lavender,” I said and touched one of the thistle-colored cosmos blooms. “The lavender won’t seed, but cosmos will. The seeds are prickly, so be careful when you gather them. These are prolific. They might take over the place. Just sprinkle them. They’ll self-seed. The hollyhocks, too. And maybe take some of the gallardia. Blanket flower,” I said, pointing to the corner crowded with flowers that exactly resemble the inside of a nectarine cut in half.
“I’m funny,” the lady said. “I don’t like yellow.”
“Well, some people don’t,” I said.
Again, I might have copped a "beggars can't be choosers" attitude, but I didn't. I noticed again the metallic mauve of her scooter. I did not try to talk her into any yellow. Who am I to cajole? I’ve been obsessing over an all-white garden, for goodness sake. I can relate to color quirks.
Suddenly, I grew self-conscious, aware of all the weeds poking up in the flower bed where she went after the little dried wheels of hollyhock seeds. “I need to get out here and weed,” I said.
“I don’t see weeds,"
the woman said, "I see flowers. These hollyhocks look ancient. How long have you lived here?”
“About 20 years,” I said. “The cosmos came from my mother’s garden. Help yourself. And good luck.”
“Thank you so much,” she said with sincerity; and I left her to collect her mourning seeds.

Inspiring beauty along the parkway

The second episode with strangers in my gardens happened a few weeks ago. I was working in my garden when a man and a boy stopped by on their bikes. The man introduced himself and his son. They lived a few blocks away, he said.
“I’ve been admiring your garden.”
I beamed. “I like it, too,” I said, proud as any parent.
He explained that he wanted to plant the right of way at the end of his block along our busy central Denver, one-way avenue. He asked about which plants would do well. I showed him some low water, low maintenance plants. I warned about planting things that would grow too high, interfering with sight lines along the trafficked avenue. (The way my hollyhocks unfortunately do.) I
applauded his idea, encouraged him to pursue his beautification plan, even offered to help if he needed more assistance.
I showed his young son the seeds of several plants, explaining that they’d all started from tiny seeds.
When I showed him one hollyhock seed and then showed him the towering, thick-stemmed hollyhocks with all the colorful little hoop skirt blossoms, the boy's eyes went round. He said, “Wwwwwwow!"
My sentiments exactly.

Begging a flower for a lover

And the first heart-warming incident in this string of encounters with strangers in my gardens happened last spring. While working in my garden, a young man stopped by. He, too, had been admiring my garden. He was formal, polite, enthusiastic. “I drive by here every day on my way to my girlfriend's,” said the young Romeo, probably in his 20s. (Difficult for me to judge age anymore, since I just turned 49, a blinding turnstile age.) At any rate, the Don Juan plead his case, “I was thinking how happy my girlfriend would be if I could bring her just one of those beautiful flowers.”
“The tulips?” I asked, a bit incredulous that he had stopped to beg a flower for his lover.
“Just one?” he pleaded.
How could I refuse so romantic a gesture?
“You pick it,” I said. And he did.
I wish I could have seen the look on his lover's face when he showed up with that flower. I wish I could have seen what she'd done with it. Was it in a pretty vase on the bureau in her bedroom? Atop her bathroom sink? The centerpiece of her dining room table? I could only hope she would cherish the tulip as much as her sweetheart had. I pray the tulips return next spring. I will gladly share another and another and another.

If you grow a garden, know that your garden is not for you alone, but for all who would look upon it. All who would steal its seeds. All who would imitate your edge of Eden. All who would beg a flower for a lover.

For more greenthumb matters, please visit my page, where I serve as Denver Flower and Gardening Examiner. Just click here to link.

COLORADO COLLEEN: Happy Feast Day, St. Francis of Assisi

I'm a day late in wishing Saint Francis of Assisi
a happy feast day!

St. Francis has successfully crossed ecumenical boundaries,
and he's often associated now not only with animals,
but also with the environment
and peace.
Plus, he's the patron saint of Colorado,
so he's one of my favorite saints.
I called on him constantly when I had my dogs Friday and Copper.

I made a pilgrimage to Assisi, after my dog Friday died,
and I left some of her ashes there
near where the body of good St. Francis lies for all eternity.
But that's another story.

Photo by Quincy Benton
depicts my secret garden's St. Francis statue,
a gift from my late parents.
See that crack around his neck?
Once, my girl Friday got so excited chasing a squirrel,
that she jumped up and toppled the tall, heavy statue.
Upon impact, his head fell off,
and St. Francis of Assisi became St. John the Baptist
until he got his head on straight again.

For more about the environment, garden angels, flowers, gardening, and other greenthumb matters, please drop by my page where I serve as Denver's Flower and Gardening Examiner.
Here's a link.
Just click here now.
Hope to see you there.


04 October 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: To Sanctifiy Your Sunday--Or Any Day

Happened upon this beautiful passage today. I post this to sanctify your Sunday. Or any day.

"Dear one, you are growing up. You are beginning to sense and appreciate the coming changes. The ground-swell is beginning to sweep the planet. Fresh winds are blowing, untruths and injustices are being brought to trial. The world court, in its very infancy, is beginning to meet out justice. It is coming, it is coming.
Continue your earnest and sincere prayers for those mortals in ‘charge’ of grave decision making, which will affect humanity with far-reaching consequences.
The cry of the human soul is always heard. Pray without ceasing for the downtrodden, the downcast, the trampled upon and the mighty greedy ones. Each and every soul is in need of upliftment. The most powerful hungry-for-money humans have the neediest souls.
Continue to pray for God’s Light so to shine, so that even those who sit in spiritual darkness may begin to sense the Light living within them. You are a part of an invisible peace corps, an army dedicated to do the will of God. Join all the other souls in prayers for peace, for love, for light, for balance, for harmony.
These are all waiting to be manifested in the unified energy-force field. Focus your desire upon all these things. Energy follows desire, and desire fosters the intent to create.
Thoughtless form prayers do not leave the building in which they are said, and many prayers remain unanswered, because they never reach heaven.
Desire your prayers to be answered with all your heart, soul and mind.
Be there in your prayers. Grow in faith, and grow in spiritual strength, for it is the Father’s Gift, Who guides you in all things. Seek your Gift in the Stillness of your heart."

Thoughts or reactions, anyone?
Peace be with you!


01 October 2009

Happy October: 37 Days Til Ski Season Opens!

Frost in the forecast means fare thee well
to much of my garden;

but in my in box an email reminding me
of the one consolation:

37 days until ski season opens in Colorado!

Photo depicts my college housemate
Betsy "Logan" Edwards, at left,
and moi atop Vail.
Betsy brokers real estate in the Vail Valley
in case you're looking for
a get-away in the high country.

Meanwhile, bring in any plants
you intend to over-winter in the hospitable indoors.
Toss a blanket over your tender plants outside--
especially those tomato vines!
Indian Summer extends our growing season,
but not if Jack Frost nips too hard.

30 September 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Thoreau on Imagination

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.”

—Henry David Thoreau

(1817-1862); philosopher, writer, naturalist


THE WRITTEN WORD: It can be done

“The world is moving so fast these days
that the man who says it can't be done
is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”
Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915), philosopher, author, publisher

And just in case you think this fast-paced world is new,
check out the date of this author's death.


Pass it on!