Friday, July 25, 2014

In the July flower garden

July is the month of flowers. 

My apologies to all that is beautiful in bloom for just now catching on to this fact.

We can get carried away by how fresh May is, and how green June arrives. These notes of the new season don't escape us.

And then it’s the 4th of July and it’s head-on summer. We settle into the pace.

Perhaps it’s the long, languorous stretch that is July that causes us to not bother so much about keeping tabs on the continuing beauty around us. 

Many of us, at any rate, don’t take the time to take apart and one by one identify that which delights the eye and our other senses as the season matures.

Besides succumbing to the restfulness of July it can be that we don’t tune in because we’re dodging the heat. 

We may be parked at the lake or are planning or taking vacations, as many of us do when kids are out of school and schedules free up a bit.

Whatever it is, we can dim, by missing it, the loveliness found now in the quiet places where the flowers grow.

My recognition of the beauty of July flowers began with the roses by the mailbox. Then the hydrangeas and orange daylilies in our yard jumped out at me. 

Appreciation roamed out to include the neighborhood. It kept on spreading as I kept looking for it. 

The flowers everywhere are admirable in their colors, height and regality.

Wildflowers are especially gorgeous this year. Substantial spring rains probably have something to do with this.

Take a drive anywhere in the countryside and you're treated to a palette of colors which is the showiest in some years. 

A wealth of wildflowers, in shades of orange, white, purple and yellow, compose dense patches and liberally sprinkle the grasses.

A visit to our library in summer always includes a stop at the outdoor garden which is riotous with color in July.

This week I stood amid the beauty of the library blooms and took in the scene. 

But what ultimately bowled me over was stepping to the edge of the drop-off on the property and realizing the steep south slope below me was a surging tide in wildflower hues.

The sun shone resplendently upon the hillside which was thick with flowers. 

As I get more practiced at identifying wildflowers each stands out separately though blending in with the others at first glance.

It was like being on the prairie in the days when the native grasses rustled in the wind as the untamed open space billowed like waves on the sea to the far horizon.

Out and about we notice a distinct trend in residential gardens. It’s been a growing preference and this year we can tell it’s become an established garden style. 

These are the gardens that have plantings attractive to butterflies and bees.

Homeowners plant these wildlife gardens as a way to give back to nature for its bounty. 

By planting flowers and herbs that attract butterflies and bees we help ensure these at-risk species will be able to find food that sustains them for their important cycles, and for the bees to do the critical work of pollination.

A big joy for me this July has been seeing bees, or the dip of butterfly wing, where basil, lavender or other herbs grow, or where bee balm stretches tall with its raggedy bright heads.

The lazy hum of bees in the July flowers is the peace of summer at its apex. A good time of the year, July is even better in the July flower garden.

Ro Giencke – July 25, 2014






Thursday, July 17, 2014

Spontaneous beach lunch

Cherished times often become strolls down memory lane. 

Just give any good thing sufficient time and it will surely happen.

A place we fondly remember recently became our stroll down memory lane. 

Lane is a good choice of word for what we were on. It was a pretty country road passing through once familiar farmland and woods.

We were newlyweds, to go to the beginning of the story. Al’s job took us to a small town which we entered as strangers. The place grew in importance as we made it our home.

It had one long main street, which was a major US highway, which ran north and south through town.

It was intersected downtown by an east and west street which also claimed some commercial importance.

It was the street that was the US highway, however, that had the post office, Andrew Carnegie library and grocery stores on it.

This, then, was essentially the town. Count in several leafy residential streets with alleyways, schools, churches, possibly a golf course, a defunct theater, a lake and a river through it, and you have a picture of our first career assignment after marriage. We were there nearly three years.

Winters got long in the small town. The winters back then were especially cold. Cars didn’t always want to start and you bundled up to your eyes if you went out on foot in the strong winds.

You were cautious all the month of January about going too far away to find the bright lights on a weekend in case a new snowstorm blew up, or for fear you’d freeze to death in your car if the engine conked out.

You found your friends and clung to them. You were grateful for the chances to get together and beat back the dark and chill of interminable wintertime through social gatherings at each other’s houses or joint trips somewhere to eat out.

But then it became summer and suddenly you were embracing the small town setting as if luck had rolled around and looked right at you.

Al and I used the long summer evenings to fish the many area lakes. My fishing was quite minimal and I’ll leave it at that.

I was happy to be in the boat with him and letting the casting and reeling in of the fish happen around me.

The quiet of the lake, the call of the loons, the restfulness that comes when shore is distant and land voices reach you faintly over the unruffled surface of the water make a summer slip gently away on long twilight nights.

Other times, rather than boating, we went swimming. The swimming lake was not the lake in town but was located about three miles out.

The city lake was a reservoir of the river. River current flowed through it. The current probably made the lake somewhat risky to swim and, consequently, a public city beach was not developed there.

We went swimming after work. I don’t recall going to our lake on weekends but only in the evenings. Supper dishes were done and we were free as the breeze to do whatever we wanted.

Just as cold winters were a trend then, so were dry, toasty summers. Nature balances itself.

An evening jump in the summertime lake was a cooling thought. It was easy to suggest and carry out. We got out there quite often, especially the first year.

The beach was at the end of a turnoff from the highway. It was in a stand of oak trees. There was a scattering of picnic tables. It was all very simple as you’d expect of a picnic beach in the countryside.

On the opposite shore was a farm. In sight were a farm home, red barn and fields. Sometimes the farm's dairy herd grazed in the pastureland.

Occasionally the cows came down to the shore to drink. It was fun to watch the cows as we let the day slide off us in the shallows at our end of the lake.

Passing through the area on the way home from an event this month, we had the spontaneous desire to see our old swimming hole again. It’s been years since our time there.

We have revisited our former home but haven’t put on the paltry extra mileage to get to the swimming lake.

We took the Interstate off-ramp and stopped at a food mart to buy provisions for a picnic lunch. Then, without difficulty, we navigated to the road that would take us to our lake.

The farmhouse and red barn are still standing across from the beach as we remembered their shapes seen from our side of the lake.

They were like old friends, keeping true to an image held of them.

The cool clear beach waters invited us in. We ate our lunch and skipped a pebble across the waves instead. Time, even with its memories, gracefully moves on.

Ro Giencke – July 17, 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Song of the nations

My friend and I are connected by a song which was specifically sung for the 4th of July weekend.

She heard the song at the church she attends when at her lake place.

The song, "This Is My Song," was also played where my family was in Sunday attendance, at a little country church filled to capacity with Independence Day vacationers.

“This Is My Song” isn’t a new song for either of us. Each time we hear it we’re touched by the words and the images they stir in us.

The beauty of the song was, in fact, the main reason for my friend’s email. She wanted to share the verses she’d taken the time to write down.

“I am going to take the liberty to type the verses to you now,” she said, “as I feel so strongly about them.”   

My email back to her said the song is a favorite of mine as well. Only, I added, the name I give it is “Song of the Nations.” It’s what comes to me when it’s heard.

The phrase “My Song” in the song title doesn’t do justice to the sweeping scope of the verses. The song has a motif that encompasses the world. It's a song all of us on earth carry within us.

The line in the song which really grabs me is in Verse 2. It’s the line that says my country’s skies are bluer than the ocean.

The music goes on ahead of my musings. I stay behind in the images. I’m picturing people everywhere looking up. 

We find solace, freedom and inspiration in our native skies. They cap our space and are an unlimited boundary over our heads. 

Bright with sunlight the skies can be so blue we are lost in the wonder of it. Nothing can be more beautiful we think.

The verse goes on to point out that other places also have their beauty, “and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.”

The message sticks. Home skies are our roof and shelter wherever we are. We consider things of personal experience as unique. They are – to each of us. 

But we mustn’t rule out that others have the same conviction and passion in what they hold dear and see as evidence of their blessings.

The verse ends with the words: "O hear my song, thou God of all the nations, a song of peace for their land and for mine.”

“This Is My Song” masterfully teaches the idea that peace is a song within the universal heart. It reminds us to think and act globally as a way to peace.

“This Is My Song”

1. This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine. This is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine; but other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

2. My country's skies are bluer than the ocean, and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine; but other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine. O hear my song, thou God of all the nations, a song of peace for their land and for mine.  

The third verse my friend emailed, not included here, has the words “Let  . . . hearts united learn to live as one.”

“This Is My Song” is a song not exclusive to one individual or one country. It’s a song of all peoples, all nations. It's a song of our human experience. It is our song. 

Ro Giencke – July 9, 2014


Wednesday, July 2, 2014


At church on Sunday the sermon was on the help silence gives us to better situate ourselves for good listening communication with God.

It was mentioned that summer is an excellent time to put into practice this exercise of quieting our thoughts and tuning ourselves up to listen well.

Summer is made for gazing we were told as we sat in the pews with the side door open to the street filled with bright ten o’clock sunlight.

Gaze upward to the blue sky, we were urged, with 4th of July and the broad canvas of summer beyond it offering plenty of gazing opportunities.

Gaze across our beautiful blue waters. Gaze out on Minnesota greenness, particularly made green this past season of rain. 

Gaze on loved ones God puts into our lives. The suggestions flowed over us in an inspired theme.  

When the gaze we hold on anything has the awe of absorption in it we allow ourselves to be changed by what we see. 

We’re moved to an affinity with our experience. The scene we behold or the faces of humanity in front of us enter deeply.

A concentrated gaze coming from mindful and deliberate action powerfully connects us to life. It can heal us. We can recognize more clearly the unity that is in all creation.

Sunday’s sermon makes me want to share it. I think it’s because truth has a path that sweeps you up in it.

As I give consideration to the concept of gazing for growth it makes sense that gazing is a natural partner of gratitude.

Gazing – the spiritual act of putting your attention lovingly on all moments of your life – cannot be initiated without a response of equal measure arising from it. 

This becomes the sense of gratitude which in full expression is made to pass along.

When you allow yourself to look, to be pulled into a moment with eyes wide open, taking it in, noticing the grandness in the smallest thing, and the heart of the matter in each event, great appreciation wells up.

My wish for this 4th of July is that we all do some gazing. Let us gaze upon friends and fireworks, watermelon and fried chicken, burgers on the grill and beer on ice in the tub.

Let us, this Independence Day, gaze on the American flag. Let us gaze on its glory as it identifies civic buildings and waves at its post at porches and residential mailboxes.

Let us gaze upon the truth of freedom. Let us gaze on the truth that freedom isn’t free. It never was and perhaps isn’t meant to be.

Freedom is free only when we work for it, use it, defend it and make it our ideal. Millions have died giving its gift to others whose times they did not live to see.

Gaze around. Gaze inwardly too. Reflect on your gazing and what it tells you. Gaze, listen to the silence and its words, and let gratitude quicken you.

Ro Giencke – July 2, 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On the lake

We had our boat out yesterday. 

For me it was the first time on the lake this season. 

There’s a no-wake rule which puts boats to very low speeds. 

That’s fine unless you happen to be out when you see rain clouds form.

You don’t get very far with one eye on the sky and the other surveying the distance it’ll take to get to shore at 5 mph. But more about that later.

Because of the snail pace imposed we didn’t try to take the boat far out into the lake. 

It takes forever to get anywhere. Instead we hugged the shoreline. This gave us a lake tour of the big homes being built on the bay.

We marvel at the size of roofs on the brand new places. These estate homes are like an expensive bracelet around the lake. 

They add their own beauty and proportion while not always, in my opinion, in strict proportion to the scope of nature around them.

Dark clouds formed in the distance. In short order the sky to the south grew inky. 

The ominous deepening of the clouds began to overrun the sky. With one more glance in that direction we knew It was time to go in.

Our boat and a squad of sailboats, out not far from the sailboat marina, all came in like chicks following a mother hen when it appeared wise to pull into shore.

Boating was 70% getting ready and 30% actually on the water. Being on the lake, however, even for that short while, was summer in our hands with not a care in the world.

Ro Giencke – July 1, 2014