My daughter Ruth and her dog Lily visit our neighbor's Panda bears

Leave it to a librarian to expand my vocabulary. “Have a great day, look out for the Snowmageddon!” he wrote in an email yesterday morning.

            Well, considering my childhood—walking almost a mile to elementary school in snowstorms, and rolling snow in our backyard into balls so huge and heavy we kids couldn’t lift them to make snowmen, so we climbed on top of our blobs, beat our chests, and jumped off instead—“snowmageddon” seemed profound hyperbole.

            Furthermore, during the rise of Mary Lou Retton’s stardom and the public high school girls’ gymnastic teams, I drove all over Metro Detroit’s east and west side for almost a decade of winters to judge meets. I cannot recall one cancellation for inclement weather.

            I often turned into our driveway around 11 p.m. with my $30 check to buy another pair of shoes for one of our three daughters.

            With this history in mind, at 2 p.m. yesterday, I didn’t vacillate to zip up my jacket to drive Mittens and Cuddles to their vet appointment.

“I put them in the back of your car. Their kennel’s heavy. Do you want me to go with you?” my husband asked.

“No thanks. I’ve got ‘em,” I said.

Light snow began as I turned onto our road for the 7.9 miles into Oxford. A Michigander from age five, I wondered what was the big deal about one more snowfall. After all, the forecasters were wrong again on February 2.

            True, I’m considerably older, and traffic is heavier than thirty years ago. However, these variables mean I’m a much wiser, experienced driver today. And our County Road Commission has made great improvements on our roads.

            When the vet arrived in the exam room, I pulled Mittens, then Cuddles out of their kennel. After the doctor declared our cats healthy and demonstrated how to apply their deworming medicine, the girls hightailed it back into their cage. I paid the bill and drove into another beautiful winter afternoon.

            To my advantage, a county truck with grader and load of salt cleared my way northeast on Lakeville Road. Before my turn onto our Nature Beauty Road, I hit my right blinker to visit my local library. The lot stood vacant and the library dark.


            This morning I stopped in the henhouse with strawberry hulls and overripe pears, our three hens’ reward for surviving this cooped-up season.

Predictably, the pristine, sparkling ice crystals called me to our former cow path to walk within its blessed atmosphere. I neared our neighbor’s home of twin boys, and smiled again at their panda bears attached to a tree on both sides of their driveway.

I saw the mother shoveling four inches of snow. We waved.

“I like the pandas on your trees,” I said.

“The twins couldn’t let them go.”

“Is everyone well?” I asked.

“Yes. Work called a snow day. And they canceled school.”

            Dear Reader, why weren’t her boys engaged in a good snowball fight, or building a snowman?

            Perpetual media hyperbole?   

Winter recreation

My favorite apple cake recipe

What does a gardener do for recreation when she can’t dig, plant, and prune?

            She roots deep into her spice cabinet for ingredients. She measures, blends, and bakes until the earth thaws.  

            For instance, Regina’s Apple Cake that found my recipe box in October 1980 on Algonac Street in Detroit. The 13”x9” pan served my family of five with leftovers.

In my opinion, my belated friend’s dessert is the most delicious way to use four to five unpeeled Honeycrisps. I prefer the flavors of walnuts and apples baked in a substantial dough and topped with whipped cream any day to a slice of apple pie.

            This in mind, I baked Regina’s legacy dessert for my Bible study group. While the batter rose and blushed golden brown in the oven, I followed my newfound Toffee Squares directions a friend posted online as her “mother’s favorite cookie.”

The dark brown sugar shortbread and melted Hershey milk chocolate bar topping sprinkled with chopped pecans tempted my palate. I sampled a warm, buttery, chocolate Toffee Square. M-m-m. Then another. Oh yes, this cookie deserves its fame and place in my kitchen.

Now, it’s not common for me to bake two desserts in one day, or week, even when snowbound. Yet, I’ve no winter days to waste submitting to dietary precautions. April’s around the corner. I’ll soon resurrect my trowel, shovel, and secateurs.

True to a woman’s infatuation with chocolate, l returned home from my study group with more cake than cookies. My husband and I consumed the few Toffee Squares while several servings of cake waited in the freezer.

Days later, my friend who hosts our Bible lesson said, “I filled up on Toffee Squares last week and didn’t taste that beautiful cake. Would you mind baking another one for our last class?”

What does a gardener who can’t dig, plant, and prune do for a good friend?

She scoops flour and slices apples.

This time I remembered to whip equal parts heavy cream and cream cheese with two tablespoons confectionary sugar and one teaspoon vanilla extract.

With chocolate competition eliminated, we ladies served ourselves a double portion of cake crowned with a healthy dollop of cream sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

You see, these frigid months when I adjust my glasses to better read my scribbling, I recreate my mother standing before her kitchen counter.

A lover of everything dairy, Mom would’ve never forgotten the whipped cream for Regina’s recipe. And my aforementioned sentiment about apple pie would’ve rankled her rolling pin.

Year round Mom produced every pie imaginable. She stirred a mountain of cakes with her spatula. Her banana cake with buttercream frosting one of my favorites.

My mother found great pleasure in placing another pie, cake, pudding, or brownie variation on her table when we visited her for summer vacation. She would’ve loved Toffee Squares.

Dear Reader, what did a gardener do for her mother who preferred to bake than dig, plant, and prune?

She found her mother’s trowel, shovel, and secateurs. 

Enough for now


Saint Francis of Assisi stands guard on our backyard terrace garden

Snow fell last November before I seized the opportunity to deadhead my lower, backyard garden—the last on my list of dried stems and seed heads to feed a burn pile.

            Neither did my mate and I carry our weighty statue of St. Francis of Assisi from his post on the terrace to the garage for his winter doze.

            “We’ve done enough work this growing season,” I spoke to my helping hand. “Let the birds eat the seeds. St. Francis will appreciate their company.”

            He agreed.

            Well, a goldfinch, house finch, or cardinal has yet to perch upon St. Francis’ head, or land on seedpods. Whenever in the kitchen, I keep watch from the windows, binoculars and Bird Identifier chart handy in effort to spy more Michigan birds.

            I hope to witness the day wings descend upon my winter offering. The sight and sound are as delightful as a playground of youngsters on a summer day, albeit brief.

            Meanwhile, I admire this month of fondant landscapes on walks and from inside the house. Amongst all this white, I’d welcome the contrast of a crow or two. And their laughter. Any cheerful, living thing.

            No, I don’t suffer cabin fever, anxiety, or fear, for God meets all our needs according to His riches in Glory. And truly, my lower garden is quite content to overwinter wild.

            Which means I’ll have more Rudbeckia, phlox, and Echinacea seedlings to weed and transplant this coming spring.

            What troubles me is a phone conversation with a young mother two days ago. A visitor of my former lavender farm, we reconnected after fourteen years. Her voice sounded tired and discouraged.

            “Are you ill? May I help?” I said.

            She hesitated. “No. Thank you for asking. Work is overwhelming. We’re off today because of the snow, and my son and I dread going back.”

            “Where do you work?”

            “My son’s public school. The administration mandates masks. I’m a kindergarten assistant, and cannot bear what’s happening to the children and my boy. We can’t sleep for worry.”

            My first conversation with a public school teacher regarding this dilemma, I replied with the only response I felt capable to speak. “Would you like a lavender bouquet to help you rest?”

            “How will you do that?”

            “I keep bundles of dried lavender for occasions like this.”

            “Yes, please.”

            That evening I packaged my promise with two lavender sachets. The following morning I woke feeling my love inadequate to encourage this weary mother and her child.

            I recalled my difficult meetings with school administrators, teachers, and coaches who crossed the line of their authority with one of our three girls. Both private and public schools.

            Dear Reader, a neighbor plowed one side of our circle driveway, enough for now. Enough for my husband to drive my package to the post office.

            I pray my gifts are enough to grant my friend and her son a ray of hope. I pray God meets all their needs according to His riches in Glory.

Winter weeding


My smaller file cabinet plastered with photos of the people and things I love

I couldn’t face the contents of my file cabinets the winter of 2014. Too many decisions what to keep, pitch, and forward after I retired my lavender farm and writing workshops. I avoided the top drawer of the tall cabinet in a corner of my study’s closet—could not tread upon the remnants of my beloved deceased, relapse again into memory’s dark and unknown depths.

Patience, I prayed. Rest. Restore your mind, body, and spirit this winter. Write.

Faithfully, each weedy growing season since, my gardens reminded me how paper multiplies like dandelions in this trade. Better attend my files when the snow flies. Although I’ve conducted business electronically the past twenty-eight years, I prefer the tangible manuscript to read and edit, and tear sheets of my published works to archive.

At last, upon the conclusion of this past harvest, the seventh year since 2014, I declared January 2022 the month to purge the old. Time to make room for the new.

And so my weeding began Tuesday, January 25, with the small desk file beside my right knee. “Save only what takes your breath away, and what you may need for future projects,” said my inner administrator.

Thus, a box of trash overwhelmed my “saved” pile. In the process, I recovered my paper calendars from 2021 back to 1994, the commencement of my writing life.

I struck an easy stride the following day as I opened my study’s closet door and pulled out the top drawer of the tall cabinet beside its wider companion in the corner.

Folder upon folder, I recognized names on former workshop rosters, and guest speakers for Michigan herb and horticultural therapy conferences I’d attended at Michigan State University.

Leaders of those organizations and educational events developed a camaraderie of like minds I’ve found common in their fields of interest and study—a servant’s spirit to perpetuate their mission of teaching the healing virtue of growing and consuming herbs and flowers.

Proof of an abundant life stored in the second and third drawer filled a large plastic bag. Within the bottom drawer, my transcripts from one community college and two universities, class syllabi, and graded assignments remain for my random reference and amusement.

There’s always something to learn again.

My larger file cabinet with more people and things I love
           The third snowy day, emboldened to complete my goal, I opened the top drawer of the corner cabinet.

Front to back, the paper trail of sanctified family memorabilia—birth certificates, marriage certificate, Warranty Deed for our property, passports, family photographs I’ve collected to frame—waited for my touch.

And yes, I removed the contents from the last hanging file in the back.

Unfolded each paper.

Read every word.

Studied our firstborn’s beaming face in photographs she left behind. They all tell a tragic story too often echoed in this broken world.

Dear Reader, I weeded nothing from Becky’s papers. I saved what took my breath away, what my younger daughters need for their future. Their sister’s birth and death certificate rest in peace.   

And so do I.