Rigor and Rain: Moving through this new season

Yesterday, Kiddo and I went up to Powell Butte to meet up with some of his classmates at his new online school. We dressed for the just-turned weather, meaning that raincoats were on hand as well as my trusty green fleece cap (makes me warm, makes me happy). Kiddo, of course, decided that shorts were the thing as he was glad for the cool weather. Once, I would have argued with him to wear long pants. At this point in his life, though, I've decided that they are his skinny legs and that he knew what he was getting into.

Meeting his teachers was a delight and much of my walk around this little-known and sweet conservation area made up of beautiful woods and meadow was taken in solitude, if that's possible with 50 some odd people around. Kiddo had met another boy in his class and they stuck to each other like glue for the entire time, the hour and a half or so we tromped through over paths in the rain. Would that the walk have been a bit slower, I'd have had more time to focus on the gorgeous surroundings, but a young and vigorous teacher led the way up and around the Butte, full of energy. I can see why he is an inspiration to the kids he teachers, and it didn't hurt me any to get a bit of extra exercise and tag along near the back where the pace was slower.

I suppose it's a metaphor of sorts, my experience of this school outing. I was, I'll admit, a bit challenged to push myself to stay in pace with the group. Yet, I know that Kiddo is being challenged in this same way academically. The past few weeks has stretched him (and if we are being honest, myself as well) in mental work and sticktuitiveness. Even when we do hard things, whether they are double-digit multiplication with decimals or hauling my butt up a steep hill, there are benefits. One of which was having a chance to connect with Kiddo's teacher. She's doing an amazing job of taking this class on a thoughtful learning experience and while we'd been in good communication, it was great to see her (and her darling baby!) and I came away from our conversations feeling even more assured that we have made the right choice for Kiddo's education.

The other day, sitting on the porch and taking a snack break from some work on a slide presentation, Kiddo said to me that "it's nice to have a teacher who is kind and wants to help you. It makes me want to work hard to do well for her." I shared this with her on our walk; I know she was touched that he felt so positively about his experience, but I wonder if she could know how deeply moved I was by his comment. A sense of emotional safety and security was so important for him and to hear him state that need was met gave me something beyond a sense of relief. It had struck the sweet spot of where I had hoped we might one day be.

So much change is evident in this last month, both within and without. My garden is starting to wind down, but the more-frequent rains help it to feel cleaner and the plants seem relieved from the summer heat at last. The orange calyxes on the Chinese Lanterns in the front yard seem brighter and more defined as the light changes. I've built a stumpery garden with six old stumps and an hodgepodge of various rocks and stones, bricks and concrete pieces, fitting chicks and hens and other succulents, an old small vase and seashells in the cracks and crannies and am gearing up to fill the top bed in with more succulents and a variety of plantings. In our backyard, it was high time for the old lavender to be pruned back hard, so much of the greenery on the ends is being cut off to give energy and space for the tiny new tufts of green closer-in on the old wood. This is an experiment of sorts, and I'l see how things really fare by next spring or summer, when the plant has had a chance to go dormant over the winter and catch its breath. I'm guessing it will be more compact and hopefully, that will extend the life of the two plants heavenly-scented plants I bought for my preschool 7 years ago.

Joe and Kiddo had a Cub Scout camping event to attend after our trip to Powell Butte, so after a busy week, I was finally left alone in a quiet house. It takes a while to settle into relaxing after the guys leave. Usually the stress of getting all of the packing done and helping them out the door leaves me a bit at loose ends when they finally pull out of the driveway. Going outside to the back yard, I was grateful that I'd plucked several mostly-ripe tomatoes from the vine before the rain had started. Smiling to myself, I also came upon a happy discovery: my osmanthus tree is nearly ready to bloom again.

I love the promise of that tree and the seasons. That tree, a discarded delight from a neighbor's garden years ago, blooms tiny ivory flowers in both spring and fall and they give off the most heavenly scent. In spring, on a warm day, it's bliss to stand out there and let my senses take it all in. In fall, it makes me hope for a dry day so I can fully enjoy it. But it always blooms like clockwork, and the buds are so small, when they do pop open, it always takes me by surprise. That beauty can be dependable, relied upon--- this is such a gift. My gardening philosophy is to use as much salvaged and discarded materials as possible. Last weekend, the same neighbor who was 'done' with that beloved tree also gave me some crocosmia bulbs which she was clearing out. I'll find a few places to plant them in for next year as I love the fiery red, arching flower sprays.

Education is a lot like gardening. Sometimes there are challenges, sometimes --whether in one's back or one's brain-- it makes you sore. It makes you push yourself in order to benefit later. The level of commitment is a balm, it soothes... as we see ourselves gaining more skills and knowledge*, we feel the intrinsic reward of a job well done and of having achieved new things. This isn't to say there aren't hard times, the inevitable uneven ground to tread or the new concept which challenges one's mind and will. I push myself that little bit harder to be down on my knees, doing work which I know will hurt and look good later on as flowers bloom, and Kiddo does the same, wanting to get those 100% marks and to please his teacher who is working to help him understand new things about his world. Hard work seems to be the theme of this season, the transitions both in our hearts and out in nature as the weather cools. The garden looks bright in the overcast light this morning, somehow the pink and red mums and the orange-yellow squash blossoms, the dazzling green of the Italian parslesy seem even more pronounced this rainy morning. The leaves of the forsythia outside the kitchen picture window shiver in the breeze and I know that soon, we'll be building fires in the woodstove, carving pumpkins and the rains will come and come and come. For now, this morning of rest, spying a lone hummingbird in the back taking shelter in my sweet tree, I'm appreciative of both the rigor and the rest. Autumn is a chair I will rest in comfortably each evening, to knit a scarf for a stranger and know that we have worked hard during each day. Peace be with you.


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