Red Raspberries in Ukraine


Ukraine, summer 1993, on a mission trip 

Red Raspberries in Ukraine


We walk the streets of Borispol and Kiev in 1993,

climb dingy high-rise apartments, find no hot

water or toilet seats—search empty shelves

in grocery stores for soap

to wash dishes, clothes, and floors. 


We seek respite from roaches

for our mission team, American teens

eager to share the good news of the Gospel

with those who lost their land and means

to the Communist Manifesto. 


We sense the cost of collectivism,

vacant streets a camouflage

to dens where Ukrainian

and Russian mafia plot to rape

the country’s remaining riches.


We sing to Ukraine’s children,

hear men speak of decapitating and toppling

Lenin’s statue, and wonder what took

them so long, marvel at their endurance

to suffer bondage and starvation.


The team of teens (four leaders in front row), cooks on the left

We befriend a band of women,

cooks who serve us bowls

of Cream of Wheat with red raspberries

fifteen mornings

on white tablecloths.


I pray their smiles, sons and daughters, thrive,

wish to compensate their kindness, seat

them around my family table, place bowls

of Cream of Wheat with red raspberries before

them, share our will to work with those who will.

Prune by the Wright book


Author's No.1 garden resouce

What a happy coincidence! Ten years ago this month, I spied The Gardener’s Bed-Book upon the “Recommended Reading” table sponsored by the Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of the group, or their annual conference. I hadn’t either until the Conference Chair of 2012 invited me to speak about the therapeutic benefits of growing lavender.

To better illustrate the plant’s versatility, the committee included my lavender products for sale. “And you’re welcome to sit in the workshops,” the Chair said.

I couldn’t have imagined this perfect match! An entire day with people who understand the healing relationship between plants and people.

First, to better represent the MHTAC, here’s their description from their website: “Horticultural Therapy is the participation in horticultural activities facilitated by a registered horticultural therapist to achieve specific goals within an established treatment, rehabilitation, or vocational plan. Horticultural Therapy is an active process which occurs in the context of an established treatment plan where the process itself is considered the therapeutic activity rather than the end product.”

Indeed! That March day within the lobby of Michigan State University’s greenhouse, I discovered one of Richardson Wright’s many books—an author unknown to me (1887-1961).

The subtitle, “short and long pieces to be read in bed by those who love green and growing things” sold me. It seemed the perfect obliging book to nod off at night with my head on the pillow and the light on.   

Surprisingly, when April rolled around, I decided to try Richardson’s witty and wise voice in the morning. The Connecticuter’s final one-liners of garden advice developed into my gardening directive for the day.

Although congenial, Mr. Wright holds a gardener’s shovel to the manure and hands to their secateurs. No matter the weather.

His January 20 bit of advice, for instance. “All tree pruning should be finished before the end of this month.”

I roll my eyes and shiver. “Who’s he kidding? It’s ten degrees out there!”

February 21 he points the procrastinator outdoors. “See that loose bark on fruit trees, where bugs might hide, is now scraped off.”

“Now?! Today?!” I ask. “I love my little fruit trees, but I’m not scraping off loose bark in that icy wind!”

Endearingly, on March 4 Richardson Wright offers me one last nudge. “All pruning of trees, shrubs and vines should be finished before the sap starts to rise.”

             I hear the plea my friend’s voice. On the tenth anniversary of our morning meetings, I know he wrote this book because he desires my garden success.

And it’s up to me, even though I don’t know if the sap’s started to rise. How can I let down my No.1 gardening resource? And my five fruit trees?

Dear Reader, a fair day of sun and no wind, I gather my pruners and pink ladder and walk into my orchard of two apple, two pear, and one peach tree.

Exhilarated, I prune by the Wright book. Don’t worry about the sap rising. And get the job done.



Marilyn Buchman (L) and Anne Roszczewski share a sweet Valentine Tea with me

I’ve accumulated a fine assortment of candles—fragrant waxes poured into decorative containers. And honeycomb votives for the proper holders.

Typically hostess gifts I stow away during the long, glorious days of gardening season, I neglect to resurrect them to cheer the tedious, winter months.  

There’s no explaining this forgetfulness other than my life span. For I’m fond of the soft glow of a burning wick. Ask my tea and dinner guests. They’ll avow my admiration for the warmth of heart two lit, slender tapers offer a table.

I first observed this loveliness when my mother crowned her Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day feasts with golden flames from her two candlesticks.

Mom used what she had with flair and flourish, a virtue she passed on to her five daughters. In a rush of recall while decorating this past Christmas, I gathered my stash of scented waxes.

First, I placed on my desk an intentionally dented tin filled with hydrogenated soybean oil. I failed to remember the face and name of the giver and scolded myself for my mistake. Next time a friend carries a gift into my house, I’ll note their name on my handy paper calendar.

My goodness! That small, soy lamp kept me company the month of January. At nightfall, candlelight burned in every room within this house, dispelling wintertime’s darkness.

I recalled a woman long ago in a Bible Study Fellowship group. One particular meeting the lesson led to our challenge as mothers to make mealtime fun and interesting for our children. “At dinnertime, my teenagers take turns lighting the candles on our dining room table,” she said.

 “Sometimes,” she added, “the kids argue about whose turn it is. I point to the kitchen wall where I hang my calendar. I’ve written the initial of the candle-lighter on each day of the month.”

Well, back then I also kept my calendar on the kitchen wall. And my two Dessert Rose taper holders I used for holiday dinners would serve just fine for family supper. So, why not give the woman’s creative idea a shot?

Because my two younger daughters were a few years shy of match-handling accountability. And I didn’t foresee them gladly submitting all the fun to their older sister.

More meaningful, my girls observed candlelight illuminate my mother’s face surrounded by her offspring in another generation of holiday tables.

            Now, nearing the end of these long, dark nights, I’m guessing my gift-givers know what long-term empty nesters need. You see, the majority of my guests boast grandchildren and great-grandchildren—“the light of my life,” they say.

            Dear Reader, I may be wrong, but I think my children and friends buy me candles to light up my life. For they know my one, teenaged grandchild lives in California.

As I sang in Sunday school when a child, I’m singing, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Hide under a bushel? No!

I’m going to let it shine!

Let it shine!

Let it shine!”