Friday, February 19, 2010

The Day of the Rhubarb

The Day of the Rhubarb

Thursday morning early the phone rang. It was a friend in Helena . “How you doing,” he asked.

“I’m feeling discouraged,” I replied. “And I have no good reason to feel discouraged. I just returned from Great Falls and a Leadership Training. I met good people, heard great stories, returned home loaded with ideas. I should be having a ‘Whoo-hoo’ day. How are you?”

“Well, I’m feeling discouraged myself.”

“You’re no help. Don’t you know you’re not allowed to be discouraged the same day I am!” We laughed. “Guess I’ll have to dig into my tool box.”

I go to my tool box when I need to tweak my thinking or change my actions. Some of my tools, such as my gratitude list and self-pity expunger, are battered and scarred from use and others are rusty and need sharpening. Meditation is a good tool. So is Call a Friend. I had already used that one and true, it did perk me up a bit. I poked around in my tools. Ah, ha. My iron. Hey, it’s my tool box. Ironing works for me. It’s a form of meditation. And I happen to have a pile of fresh laundry waiting.

Then as the long weekend approached, I looked at my flip-chart ‘to-do’ list. I write my list large, complete with stick-figure illustrations. My “to-do’ list was long. It included work, meetings, theatre, and play. I looked outside. The sun was shining. The sky was cloudless. The weeds were growing. Everything on my list was important. But nothing was urgent.

On Friday I bought plants from the nursery in Havre. I was born with my fingers in the dirt. Dirt makes me happy. The plants loudly lobbied to go into the ground. I agreed with the plants. I dedicated the weekend to grubbing in the yard, the garden, and my multitude of pots. Already I felt better.

Yesterday was a good day. I worked outside for an hour, then inside for an hour, alternating gardening with house chores and re-reading a favorite novel, W.P. Kinsella’s “Shoeless Joe”. Who could not be happy!

This morning I woke up early. Showered, made my morning cup of coffee, watched the sun rise golden through my living room. My room faces north, but when the sun rises, it shoots rays through my wall of windows in a magical golden haze. I sip coffee, grinning like an idiot.

I look in my “tool-box” and decide to bake bread. Baking bread makes me happy. I knead the dough and set it to rise in the big blue pan. I go out to the garden, hook up the hose and water my pots of petunias and geraniums. I grub out a few weeds. Another day free of mosquitoes, no-see-ums, and black flies. “Whoo-hoo!” I dig up a few more weeds. I run inside and punch down the bread dough. It rises quickly on this warm, muggy, humid morning. I read another chapter of “Shoeless Joe”. I go back outside and scatter the birds while I grub out yet more weeds from my never-ending supply. I plant a lilac. I discover that the three decorative plums that winter-killed are not dead. They have new growth suckering up around the main stem. I trim the brittle barren sticks, glad I had waited to pull them out. I go back into the kitchen and shape the dough into loaves and rolls.

Back outdoors, I check my rhubarb. I love rhubarb. My Dad, whose place I bought and where I now live, also loved rhubarb. He planted five bunches. One rhubarb plant makes a year of rhubarb pies. What was he thinking! The stalks are beautiful, tender, aromatic. There are enough mature stalks to make two pies.

I have an idea. I know another man who loves rhubarb. He and my Dad were friends. Now and then he phones just to check on me, to make sure I am okay. I chuckle while I pluck the prettiest stalks, leaving the elephant ear leaves intact. I anticipate the surprise on his face while I drive out to his place. “Here’s a bouquet for you.” He is delighted. We discuss the huge yard and garden where my Dad spent every spare moment. I decline coffee. My bread will be ready for the oven when I return home.

The yeasty smell of baking bread permeates the house and creeps out into the yard. Bees dance around me, sing songs of pollen and honey-flowers. I plant two new bunches of sweet basil in my herb garden. I pinch the rosemary just for the aroma. I feel filled up with flowers and bees and robins and gold finches and raspberry canes and strawberry plants and all things good.

The sky begins to cloud up, the wind blows stronger. I straighten my back, turn and look into the eyes of a robin nested in the poplar. The finches flitter around, landing here and there, helter-skelter, unafraid. The bread is cooling on the counter. I close the doors and windows when the wind comes up in earnest. The sky darkens. Clouds roll black and pregnant with rain. I hurry out to the rhubarb patch and pull out enough for another pie.

I chop rhubarb, roll out pie dough, put the pie in the oven and finish reading my book. I stand in the open doorway watching the rain pelt blessings onto our world. It is a beautiful day. A juicy rhubarb pie cools on the kitchen counter. I breathe deeply of wet earth and warm pie. “Whoo-hoo!”

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