Deadheading and Moonlight


I was just outside under the moonlight, in our front lawn deadheading… no not the gratefully passed on kind, but the blooms are wilted on the plants and need to be plucked off kind…

For those of you who don’t garden, it’s important to pick dead flowers from the plant. This allows the plant to focus its energy on pushing forth new blooms. You get more flowers that way.

9:30 at night is not the traditional time to do it. But it works for me.

There is a slight breeze, and the street light (on the fritz) fades in and out, light winking at me through the palm branches. Crouching there in my muddy bare feet, the thought just keeps nagging me: do I let Gardener do the same to me?

What activities, thought patterns, habits are faded blooms that need removal? What new things are just waiting for that extra bit of strength on my part, to begin to bloom?

Then I get distracted. The street light is completely out – and it is very dark only 25 feet way. I am in the light. Reminds me of the aftermath of hurricane Wilma, when we had no electricity for a week. Light was so much more than symbolically important then…

So I get even more distracted, now time-traveling emotionally back to the finca (farm, sort-of) where we used to visit my grandparents in Costa Rica… They had no electricity, and as we approached in the pitch black night through the curvy roads, under a distantly brilliant starry sky, we could see the kerosene lamp through the windows…

Upon our arrival, the guest of honor was always the car battery. My dad would hook it up to the TV set, and the family that cared for Abuelito and Abuelita could watch TV. This was a once a month treat for their children!

Oops, Barby, come back to the present… gotta finish the little gardening jaunt – it is getting late…

But wait, that bush really needs to be pruned… So I grab the pruners and trim the branches that need to be cut back, so the plant can grow stronger.

Then, as I stand there in my muddy bare feet, holding the pruners with now dirty hands, the thought just keeps nagging me: do I let God do the same to me?

What activities, thought patterns, habits are branches that need pruning? What new things are just waiting for that extra bit of strength on my part, to begin to grow back stronger than ever?

I don’t know, dear Gardener. It’s up to you.

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The Why of the What (Mud P6)

Understand, on the back roads we were all neighbors. Familiarity was the default setting.
Those you passed along the road, whether you gave them a ride or not, always shouted a friendly, dios! (deeyos – a version of “adios,” meaning “hi!”).

And that brings me to the “why” – why were we trekking around in our muddy Rover?

To get their story. My dad is a photojournalist. To capture their voices on an old tape recorder. Render them in two dimensions through a typewriter. Submit them to the heavy metal clang and the rhythmic whoosh of the linotype machine. Feed them to the mammoth printing press hungry with thick rolls of blankness.

…And eventually settle those voices in the black ink of the daily paper. Then folk in other places, in pulperías (corner shops), on radio shows, in barber shops, read the words aloud. They populate the air with their neighbors’ stories reawakened. Add their own opinions, use their own voices. And the beat goes on.

Don’t you love the process? Words are world travelers. Think about it!

Make Room (Mud P5)

Those bumps, jolts and swerves were mood music. I trusted that my dad knew where he was taking us, and how he would get us there… I enjoyed the passing scenery, the people that waved to us… I wondered about the lives of whomever might live in the colorful homes, with the fading paint and beautiful veraneras (bougainvilleas) swaying at us over rusted barbed wired fences…

And the not-knowingness of it all. As in, not knowing whom we were going to pick up along the road. A campesino with his machete and the ripe smell of a long day of work? Two freshly showered ladies making the long trek to the bus stop? Some kids on errands, with a sack or two in tow?

And always from my dad, “Mijita, córrase.” “Sweetheart, move over.” In other words, make room. Make room.

Sit on each other’s laps if you have to, but Make Room.

Head vs. Ceiling (Mud P4)

My head suffered a few knocks as we navigated the back roads. When deep muddy ruts dry, they become major speed bumps. My dad often chose not to slow down much. It was a challenge to quickly and skillfully zig-zag across the dirt, looking for the track which offered least resistance.

We kids were usually in the very back, in one of the two-seaters that faced each other. We would brace ourselves – our feet against the opposite bench, one of our hands between our heads and the ceiling, the other gripping the seatback. You could never predict the sudden jolt that might propel your bottom off the seat and your head into the ceiling!

Some people only just endure rides like that; some people are exhilarated by them. I wonder what the difference is between us? Are those of us that enjoy that just a little bit weird?

Stuck in It (Mud P3)

Have you ever planted yourself ankle deep in mud, behind a jeep which is most seriously stuck, and been told to Push! whilst the driver revs the engine and wills the car loose?

Talk about raining sludge!
Even more stimulating was when we were in convoy, and more than one vehicle got stuck! The drivers would confer, like generals planning an assault.

Those predicaments required teamwork.

Teamwork is often the very best way to get unstuck. Can you think of a time a team helped you out of a sticky place – whether figuratively or literally?

September – Homage to Mud Month (P1)

I like mud. A lot. Don’t ask me why. Maybe because I grew up bouncing around in the back of an old-school Land Rover (the real kind)… way back when. My dad took us to every nook and cranny, every small outpost of Costa Rica, navigating foot-deep ruts made by other intrepid vehicles, or forging our own channels through the soggy, sticky stretches of muck.