March 06, 2013

A time to every purpose

Do you ever wonder why you do something until you realize why you did something?

Let me try to explain...

Last spring or summer (I don't know because I don't have a date) on a near-perfect day, I decided to do a little experiment. I thought it might be fodder for a blog post. But nothing came of it...until now.

The experiment: I sat on the back screen porch and dedicated 30 minutes to recording all the sights, sounds, scents, and sensations I observed.

It seemed a little silly when I completed the list. And for the past many months, when I'd come across those notes I'd think, "Why did I do that?" Interestingly, I didn't discard the notes.

The other day when I, once again, noticed the list, its purpose was crystal clear: It helped me escape (at least in my imagination) from one of the most distasteful weather days of late winter. (Apologies to those who enjoy snow in March. I try not to whine about winter until after February.)

The notes transported me back to one of the most glorious days of 2012.

There it was on lined notebook paper: that silly list of my observations.

Sights: hummingbirds, acorns, chipmunks, bumblebees, squirrels, mosquitoes, flies, ants, fish, squirrel nests, chickadees.

Sounds: blue jays, hummingbirds, a circular saw, chipmunks, bumblebees, squirrels, crickets, German songs, whistling, cicadas, a train, chickadees.

Scents: fresh air, a hint of lake.

Sensations: light breeze, warm air.

Reading the list also reminded me that all those wonderful sensory experiences will return again very soon.

One item on the list--the sights and sounds of hummingbirds--gave me pause. When exactly do they migrate back? I found out with the help of an interactive map of ruby-throated hummingbird migration patterns from Annenberg Learner's Journey North. Shown here is the map from 2011, because 2012 was an unusually early spring. You can click on the map to see when hummingbirds are likely to make an appearance in your garden. The site also includes interactive maps for other hummingbird species and other migrating animals.

Source: Annenberg Learner's Journey North

Now that's something to celebrate!

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I'm linking in with Donna's Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View. Both Donna's meme and the Lessons Learned meme (click here or on the tab at the top of this blog) will be active until the equinox, when we'll post the wrap-ups. Please join us!

47 comments:

  1. That's a wonderful exercise! I often do pause and observe my surroundings. So much beauty to see (and photograph and write about). Lovely post for seasonal celebrations. :)

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    1. Thanks, Loredana. Sometimes I have to make myself put away the camera, the to-do list, and the activities, and just live in the moment. It's not easy, but it's always a pleasant experience if I make the time.

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  2. How nice to be able to bring back that day. Most times I only remember the feeling of a nice summer day by its sights and sounds when it IS summer again and I am sitting enjoying the day.
    The map is great too - I have to wait until mid April for a sighting of the hummingbirds in my garden, and there is never a guarantee of that happening.

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    1. I always enjoy a nice summer day with friends and family. But it feels so extravagant to set aside 30 minutes to live in the moment by myself. I guess that shows why it's important to do so occasionally. I know, same here regarding the hummingbirds. But when I do see/hear them, it's a sweet experience!

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  3. Memories! Where would we be without them.
    I hope you don't have too long a wait until your garden is overwhelming your senses again.

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    1. Thanks, Angie! The birds are starting to chirp away even though we have 16 inches of snow still on the ground. So, the change is starting, but I think I'll have to wait a long time for the warm breezes. ;-)

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  4. My morning walks although still chilly . . . give me smiles when I hear the "bird songs". This morning . . . momma and papa cardinal were chirping back and forth . . . bet I know why!

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    1. Yes, I noticed the birds are going crazy lately. I think you're right about the pairs--they're ready for spring, too. :)

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  5. Wonderful SC post Beth...I often find the sensory stimulation of spring so special as I have been deprived of it for so long...it is a welcome time to celebrate. Thanks for linking in. Love the interactive map!

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    1. Thanks for hosting the meme, Donna! I guess the list was kind of silly, but it really came in handy when I was getting all crabby about the snowstorm. ;-)

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  6. What a wonderful idea!! I always stress that you must take time to sit back and enjoy your garden; the smells, sights, etc. I think many people work so hard but don't take time to enjoy!! I like the map too.....hummers should appear in my garden late March to early April (which is when they showed up last year!!) Thanks!

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    1. So true, Christy. I don't take enough time to relax and just enjoy the garden, either. We won't have the hummers back until April either. I just realized, though, that I need to start thinking about the feeders. Well, I guess not until most of the snow melts! ;-)

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  7. I've been whining about being ready for winter to be over for the last few weeks. Something was lifted off as I read your observations from that day. I was almost there with you, enjoying the day. Thank you!

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    1. You got a lot more snow than normal, too, this winter, right? Actually, our 62 inches of snow is within the range of "normal," but it's 19.5 inches above average!

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  8. We finally got a snow storm!! Woo-hoo! Sometimes when I'm content in a moment, I want to capture it as well. I think your exercise was wonderful and wise. Sometimes words transport us more than photos, especially if they are our own. :o)

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    1. It always tickles me how people who live in climates with very little snowfall are happy to see it when it comes. ;-) We've had 62 inches of snow this winter--more than a foot is still on the ground (although it's melting fast). Photos can help to tell the story, but sometimes it's easier to live in the moment without thinking about taking a picture of it. Enjoy the snow!

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  9. I applaud you for not whining about winter until March! I'm glad you found a
    purpose to the exercise - it has certainly cheered my up on this chilly morning. If only we could bottle the fragrance too.

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    1. I'm glad to hear it cheered you up, too. It was strange how coming across that list again on the day of a March snowstorm made its purpose clear to me. I really hadn't thought of the whole exercise in that context when I began the exercise. (Actually, inside I whine about winter from mid-January until it stops. But outwardly I try to stifle it until springtime.) ;-)

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  10. I wonder if you did the same exercise in winter if you would find more to see/hear/smell than you realize. That would be a good experiment to do every season, just to note the differences. I am looking forward to the hummingbirds coming. I need to get my feeders going - they will be here soon, and hungry! This is a great celebration of spring to look forward to!

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    1. It's funny that you mention it. I did a similar (about 10 min.) exercise a few days ago, thinking I might include it here. But it was kind of boring (clock ticking, cats snuggling, water dripping, furnace heating up, etc.). It's too cold to sit outside and do the same stillness exercise, but definitely on my walks and when I'm shoveling snow or doing errands, the birds are chirpin' away! On clear winter days by the lake, lots of activity is all around. Good idea to record it in words! Please keep us posted on the hummingbirds, Holley!

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  11. hi Beth, that is an excellent exercise to do. Just stopping our busy lives, and listening and feeling for half an hour. I'm impressed that you could identify the bird sounds you heard. Having language to describe the sounds and feelings is obviously important if you want to blog about it, but I wonder if it's important also in a deep personal sense, in making the experience more meaningful?

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    1. Yes, I think it's good therapy for anyone. Life speeds by so fast. I'm not the best with bird visual or auditory IDs. But jays, chickadees, and hummingbirds are easy. ;-) I think you're right about the personal experiences. It's too easy to stumble through life without really thinking about its meaning or the joy of simple moments. Unfortunately, it slips by so fast that sometimes we miss the true beauty of it.

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  12. Great post Beth, I had to smile when I came to 'a circular saw' and 'German songs' :-)
    I think it is important to sit down and look, hear and smell - and enjoy our gardens, it's not just work, and shouldn't be! Thanks for reminding us.

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    1. Thanks, Helene. I think the fishman must have been working on some project that day. In addition to being a fish fanatic, he loves tools and projects and making things. He also sings German songs all the time. ;)

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  13. Sounds like a fine exercise. For one thing, it would drive out the worries and other mental clutter that prevent a sense of tranquility.

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    1. True. And some days--usually from May through September--I feel like I live in paradise and wish I could bottle it up. Then, February and March hit and I realize it's not paradise all the time. ;-)

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  14. German songs?

    Great idea! I'm all for watching the garden for no other purpose than watching the garden.

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    1. The fishman's second language is German. His paternal grandfather was German. He's modest about it, but I think he's pretty fluent in the language. And he sings German songs all the time. If I don't pause occasionally during the beautiful days to take them in, they're gone before I know it and then the winter hits... ;-)

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  15. Your post brought a wistful sigh to my heart...and a great memory of spring, and summer days spent sitting on the porch. See it wasn't all for naught.

    Jen

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    1. I'm glad it brought back sweet memories for both of us. :) And thanks, Jen, for your very kind comments. I think we're on similar gardening, blogging, and life journeys lately.

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  16. A nice exercise and remembrance. Winter still is here and the garden is still under snow, but one could still do the exercise because the four S's could still be observed and wonderful to boot. The air today was fresh and the sensation a chill, but not a shudder. Plenty of sights and sounds too. Thanks for the thoughts of spring and summer.

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    1. Yes, I've noticed that the birds are returning and very vocal lately. As long as one is active and moving about, and wearing warm clothing, the temperatures are comfortable. But not comfortable enough to relax in one spot and be still to observe. Soon enough, though. ;-) I'm the first to admit that I'm not very patient with the weather this time of year.

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  17. Your thoughts take me back to much warmer days. Winter has worn out his welcome here... more snow in the forecast. I'm getting excited to get out there and Spring clean! I've done this exercise in Spring... it surely lifts the soul. But I must remember to write them down in my garden journal for such a day as this.

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    1. Someone mentioned the idea of doing the activity in all three seasons which would be interesting. I know what you mean about the spring cleaning--so much muck under the snow and tons of dead plant material to clip off. I can't wait to dig my fingernails in the dirt!

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  18. I realize that I am whining about winter every day now. No more. One day at a time. One thing I do love about New England is the change of seasons and we should all live in the present with lovely reminders (your notes) of the past. So glad you found a way to make the day better.

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    1. Things are improving here, too. Lots and lots of rain is melting the snow. I'll never complain about rain again (unless it's a flood) after last year's drought. So, anyway, I'm sure we'll have more snow in March (maybe April?), but at least we're moving in the springtime direction now. Yay!

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  19. oh for chipmunks, chickadees and HUMMINGBIRDS. Stop, still, observe... total engagement. I am going to copy you once a week.

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    1. Once-a-week observations are a great idea! I know a lot of gardeners keep journals, so the whole "present in the moment" idea probably isn't new to them. I think of my blog as my journal now. But sometimes sitting on the porch with pen and paper makes it much more organic and creative.

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  20. I try to appreciate each season for what it is, but now that we're into March and I have seen daffodils blooming and robins, I'm really excited for warmer weather to get here. You'll be enjoying your hummingbirds and chickadees soon enough!

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    1. Me, too! No Daffodils here yet, but they can't be far off. Lots of rain and robins, though! I'm getting excited now!

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  21. I used to assign a similar exercise to my students in a creative writing class. Amazing how much more descriptive their writing was when they actually used all their senses to pay attention to the scene around them. You're so right--these beautiful days will be here again soon . . . and before long I'll be whining about the heat:) I just have one question--who was singing the German songs, the bumblebees or the cicadas?:)

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    1. Summer is so short here--it seems a shame not to experience it fully with all the senses! There have been a couple of summers that passed so fast, I didn't fully appreciate them. The fishman sings German songs all the time. He took German in high school and his grandfather was German. He seems to be fluent, although he's modest about his language skills. I think the bees and cicadas were joining in. ;-)

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  22. I think it's serendipity. How nice that yours worked on. I often do things and then lay them aside for a later day. Often they are used in some way.

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    1. Yes, serendipity is a good word for it, Dee! it's interesting to me that I never discarded the notes, even though they seemed pointless to me until our most recent snowstorm. Every year, we seem to have one snowstorm at the end of the winter that just aggravates me...and then soon after that obnoxious snowstorm, spring asserts herself a bit. We might still have more snow this season, but at least we've made a step in the right direction with our recent more mild temperatures. :)

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  23. I often record all my sensory observations as well. It is nice to hear I am not alone. I love your list as it reminds me of all the beauty in nature. And those hummingbirds are almost here...I can't wait.

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  24. German songs? Further explanation required. ha ha I absolutely love the smell of being close to a lake, river, pond.

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  25. What a fantastic 'global' insight ! Great to read so many perspectives !

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