Happy accidents and the Zen Little Terrapin

Every now and then, perhaps when you need it most, something amazing and unexpected happens. I am not sure if this is coincidence, synchronicity, serendipity or a gift from the Divine.

I nearly stumbled over my happy accident letting the dog out this past Saturday. Olive the goat-hound was circling something on our riverbank.  I,  poised with coffee in hand, was waiting to see her stop, drop and roll – standard procedure when something delightfully smelly and dead is in her midst. But, she only sniffed and stared.

May 2009 043What she was sniffing and staring at confounded me at first – I thought it was  a rock, until I saw two eyes staring back at me.  Our dear little crackhead (a term of endearment for our pup) had directed my attention to a turtle momma laying eggs in a nice stretch of mushroom blend mulch, smack dab in the middle of the spot I had pegged for a wagon full of day-lilies. She was about a foot in diameter, and sporting a nice wig of dirt.  Her paddle like front feet were anchored in the soil and her back feet straddling a hole. Her entire being was completely absorbed in the task at hand. She seemed serene and certainly paid no attention to us. Why, with me and my camera and Olive and her barking and sniffing, you would have thought she would have become distracted but she was in the zone, a very zen little terrapin.

After each and every egg, she very gently tucked them into their little dirt bed. I, taking on the self-appointed role of turtle Douala, watched her lay another seven eggs, while keeping the dog and my toddler at a safe distance. I had the strangest urge to offer her ice chips, but decided to give her my glowing praise and verbal encouragement instead, all the while knowing it was equally unnecessary. And, when she had strained the very last egg from her tiny body, I watched with sympathetic exhaustion as she ever so carefully covered her nest with dirt and lumbered her way back to the water and disappeared into the tidal grass.  What a leap of faith that departure must have been considering the neurotic voyeurs standing so close to her helpless baking brood.  But she never looked back, not even when my 3-year-old yelled “Goodbye turtle – see you later.” 

 From my limited, amatuer research on the topic it will be late July or early August before the shellback pack makes an appearance and that’s if they survive undisturbed by the resident racoons, foxes, muskrats and a certain blunderhound in the area.  But, if we are very, very lucky, if the planets are aligned just so, if our goat-dog has her nostrils pointed in the right direction, perhaps we will get to witness another miracle of happenstance . . . stay tuned!

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Let inspiration in, Show the “Joy Shitters” the Door

The bionic garden

“Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves, you just can’t let the world judge you too much.”

-Harold and Maude

I have been doing a lot of thinking about inspiration lately and wondering why the hell so many people find it so damn threatening.  I think it comes down to fear.

When you feel inspired to do something, whether it is learning a foreign language, trying your hand at calligraphy, or traveling somewhere new, as sure as the sun shines someone will show up to poo on your parade. And many times, they show up before your parade even begins. They throw things – doubt, ridicule, mockery – and it is a hard task, dreaming in the face of such naysayers.

Take my recent garden project, which started out as a tiny spark of an idea set off by a pretty picture in a magazine.  The picture was of a beautiful, cedar-stained raised bed garden, complete with trellis and a gate to keep Benjamin Bunny out (as well as any goat-dogs). I fell in love, drew some pictures, picked a spot and made puppy eyes at my do-it-yourself husband.

We modified the plans since we didn’t have enough flat space for a garden and decided to elevate one end off our riverbank. Several hundreds of dollars worth of lumber, and hours worth of building later and our idea is almost a reality. Enter joy, stage left . . . enter joy shitters, stage right. “Boy, I hope you didn’t use treated lumber,” said one.  “You’ll never get enough sunlight in that spot,” said another.

How to respond is key with a joy shitter. Sometimes, the best defense is no defense.  Silence is like kryptonite to them. But, be prepared, once they come up against this, they usually step up their game. Perhaps they will share an anecdote about another moron they knew that tried this and failed. Or they will ask you to defend your right, your audacity to dream such a dream. Are your skills sufficient to this wonderful inspiration? That’s what they will have you asking yourself. But, if you are willing to risk failure, along with the joy shitter’s opinion of you, than you will forge ahead.

But beware, the worst joy shitter is the one inside your own head, and, quite often, this one is the worst and the loudest. If your dream hits a snag, be especially careful of this guy.  This was the case with my new garden. After my husband had put the last shovelful of dirt into it, after I had carefully tucked in the last little seedling, it began to rain. We were beaming and proud and sitting on our laurels. There is something about seeing an idea that only existed in your head take shape.  A few hours later, when we were showered and ready to properly admire our handiwork, we discovered the back end of our “raised bed” had collapsed. Camera in hand, jaws agape, we were devastated. Dreams die hard around this house.

So, what do you do when your fabulous idea collapses, taking the sunflowers you started from seed with it? You pray for a joy cheerleader to arrive. Now, I’ll be honest, the thought of starting over was almost too much for me, but my husband is a man of loud determination.  A couple of deep breaths later he was back at it, digging out the caved in little plants and rebuilding. Sounds like a happy ending, but it is still a dream in progress. He finished rebuilding it only to have it cave in AGAIN yesterday. While he is consumed with ideas of redesign and structure fortification, I am trying my best to ignore my inner joy shitter who keeps saying fresh spinach is overrated. I am also concentrating on my mate’s ability to have his creativity flourish in the face of failure.

As soon as I finish writing this, I am going to don my garden clothes and help get my inspiration back on track by digging out a few hundred pounds of soil.

And if need be I will hold a new picture in my mind to keep me going – one of happy red tomatoes and beautiful yellow squash, and the joy shitters all shaking their heads at my unbelievable success.