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Island Guardian

Sixty Dollar Salad

I have romantic thoughts about growing my food. Fresh organic food. Fresh picked and becoming salad. Packet of seeds 2 dollars and 99 cents.

I make raised beds. I buy untreated fir 4X6’s and treat them with some kind of all natural organic wood preservative. It takes a few days. I hire a handy guy who can assemble the wood into raised beds. I purchase several hundred dollars worth of organic soil and fill them. Now I am ready to plant.

I plant the seeds. Lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard. 30 days to harvest it says on the packet. This seems to me, that may be an optimistic assumption. If everything goes right and a garden has 4 feet of organic material, a perfect amount of water, sun and ideal conditions, maybe. On the other hand, if the temperature is not quite right, not enough water, too much water. Too cloudy, too sunny. Late frost, cold nights or hot days. The moon not in the correct quarter. The stars not aligned. You know the ones. Then the seeds don’t sprout and the salad is not ready in 30 days.

I keep buying more seeds and filling in where seeds have not made it. If, after 30 days, I still have seeds sprouting and becoming plants and the cats haven’t dug them up and the deer have not discovered them and the rabbits are staying away. If the house sitter hasn’t forgotten to water when I went away for the weekend and the bug that eats the tops of the peas and beans has missed a few and I remember to harvest the plants before they bolt, I consider the garden a huge success.

I am working on the second year. I added 6 inches of manure in the fall. I amended and mulched. I prune and preen and talk to my beloved plants. By May my kale is 6 inches high, lettuce the same. I have some lovely little radishes. I am gloating with pride, and then I go to the farmers market. There, I see kale the size of small trees, lettuce so beautiful it looks like the kind they photograph for the cover of a gardening book. Tomato plants 4 feet tall. How is this possible?

I ask advice to find out why my plants aren’t growing as fast as the plant lady’s at the market. Opinions come freely. “You probably aren’t watering enough.” “You are probably watering too much.” “Did you wait until the moon was in the first quarter to plant?” “Oh no!” “Did you mulch?” “Slugs.” “Probably slugs.” “Must be voles.” “Happens to me every year.” “Deer, that’s the problem.” “Birds.” “You should never have a bird feeder, or the birds will eat your seeds.”

I have two main obstacles so far this year. Cats and pill bugs. I have three beautiful cats that are now looking for good homes. Cats dig up my seeds right away or they wait until the little plants are barely up. I read that coffee grounds work to keep cats away. Cats don’t like coffee grounds apparently. So I give up tea and start drinking coffee. It takes a lot of coffee. Wood ashes work if there are enough of them but the seeds don’t seem too happy. I begin to pile sharp objects onto my garden. Pieces of wood, wire mesh, rocks, branches, metal grid. Now my garden looks like the Mexican border wall. Dismantle that. I am confident that by now the cats will have found new places to go and will leave my garden alone. No. Not so. I get a huge pile of sand and make them sand boxes. No. I make them a dirt box. Nope. Next is motion sensor sprinkler system. If that doesn’t work, electric fence with barbed wire around premises.

Something is eating the seedlings as they emerge. I have been replanting thinking that they are not germinating. Then with closer examination I notice stems sticking out of the soil. Only stems. Pill bugs only eat decaying matter I am told. Wrong. Pill bugs swarm attack and devour my new little beans as they peek above the soil line. First I try Diatomaceous Earth. This is made of Crustacean fossils and is not at all toxic. It is composed of tiny sharp shards that either dry out the bugs or debilitate them. But I have to re apply every time I water which is twice a day. 30 dollars worth of the stuff in 30 days. And if I forget or don’t get the timing right the little creature’s swarm, attack and devour the fresh new leaves. I can trap them with beer is another suggestion. Collect little cans; make holes in the soil around the plants. One can per square foot and fill with beer. Not exactly attractive and I don’t even like beer. Next, I make little walls around the seeds using toilette paper tubes or plastic bottles. When the plants emerge the bugs can’t get to them. Little walls to keep out the bug terrorists and another hypothetical solution that doesn’t work. I buy more seeds and I buy small plants already started. I also start my own seedlings. I will succeed.

I persevere. I plant the seeds, reseed after the cat digs up the first lot, reseed after I accidentally apply too much wood ash. Reseed after the pill bugs eat the seedlings. I am addicted. The first thing I want to do each morning is to check on the garden. Water and nurture. Watch things come alive.

What is it that compels me to grow year after year? What is it that gives me a rush when I see that first seed catalogue come in the mail each winter? The pure unadulterated pleasure of appreciating and sharing my first tender greens mixed with herbs in the spring. The taste and the exhilaration. Delicious yes, and that first salad is worth about 60 bucks. Money well spent.

(On horseback, on foot and with wolfhounds, inspiration and motivation come from being present. The forest with its ambience and aesthetics provide seed for my paintings and stories. I paint what I sense. I write about my experiences, feelings and perceptions of life on our unique island. Teresa Smith B.A. Visual Arts Naropa University )

If I Were A Cedar Tree

If I were a cedar tree I would sway in the wind, bend but not break. I would be aware of the moment and nothing more.

If I were a cedar tree I would watch the world change. More generations than I can count.

If I were a cedar tree I would never be alone. I would be mother and life force. From bald eagle to tiny microorganisms that live under bark. Lichen and moss, mama fox and kits live in hole under root, woodpeckers gorging on supper, junco’s and wood hatches flitting to safety. I would give shelter and safety, sustenance and perch.

Wise woman would cherish my wisdom and see the spirit within me. I would have seen settlers come and cut down brothers and sisters. Yet, I would not wake in the night and worry. Things would be simple.

If I were a cedar tree I would welcome back the salmon that spawn then became fry then swam out to sea. I would watch as the sea gulls, eagles and bear come and feed after the next generation has been laid.

If I were a cedar tree I would hear the whispers in the dark of night. No one would know I was there.

If I were a cedar tree I would stand proud for artists with their easels and paint. I would display my beautiful sweeping branches, massive trunk and flecks of red and gold and rust within the thousands of shades of green in my boughs.

I would stand tall and calm as children climb on me and parents teach.

If I were a cedar tree I would be whole, neither happy nor sad, but at peace with my life as it is. I would live among my brothers and sisters many hundreds of years we would be. I would be strong and steadfast as those around me.

If I were a cedar tree I would be whole. I would not be bothered by the judgment of others. I would stand in peace. I would not judge.

If I were a cedar tree I would not plan for my future nor fret over my past. I would notice the caw of the crow and the nip in the air.

If I were a cedar tree I would stand tall in grace.

(On horseback, on foot and with wolfhounds, inspiration and motivation come from being present. The forest with its ambience and aesthetics provide seed for my paintings and stories. I paint what I sense. I write about my experiences, feelings and perceptions of life on our unique island. Teresa Smith B.A. Visual Arts Naropa University )

Eat Around the Worm

I offer Emma, my teenage daughter, a juicy delicious apple off the ancient leaning apple tree. “What are those spots?” She asks. “Worm holes,” I tell her. “Worm holes!” She shrieks. “Eat around them.” I tell her.

It got me thinking. Life is like that. I am not able to prevent bad things from happening and worries do creep up. The question is, how I deal with them. Do I ignore the issue? Run away from it? Or do I skirt it, look at it with curiously and make the most of it? I eat around the worm because I cherish the juicy bits. The pleasure AND the tension. There is always a bit of risk. Just take a bite.

Sometimes life goes along swimmingly. Everything I touch seems to work. Selling paintings, making friends, money coming in. My future looks bright. Then a worm in the apple shows up. It wakes me up in the night. I ignore it. I am losing money. A house sits empty. It is not renting. I pay the mortgage every month but savings are depleting. Not worried yet, then I am. What to do? From there I feel a piece of lead in my stomach. A nagging feeling that won’t go away.

My future does not feel bright. Fears creep in from years past maybe from ancestors past. The colors aren’t quite as bright. There is a momentum. The momentum is down. It stays that way for a while. Could be minutes, hours, days. My choice.

It is just this little worm that I need to eat around. I remember that I am selling my paintings, that I live in a beautiful house, that I am fortunate to have a rental to worry about, that nobody died. I live in the most beautiful place and I remember I have the best job in the world. I am an artist.

Keep my hopes up, look on the bright side, hope for the best, be a dreamer, a positive thinker and eat around the worm.

Hounds, Horses & Me

The Irish Wolfhounds and I pile into the pick-up truck. Dogs in back, me in front and we head for Plum Pond. The dogs ride in the back because they are the tallest dog there is. They can grab a roast off the kitchen counter without taking their feet off the floor. Wolfhounds are kind dogs and beautiful too. They don’t start fights but they do finish them.

There is a winding dirt road that leads to Plum Pond, heavily wooded and jungle like with tall ferns, alder and fir. At the end of the lane with its abundant potholes is a meadow and a picturesque pond, fruit trees and beautiful pastures. On the way down the hill I pick some fruit from the old apple trees to give to the horses later, and one for each dog. Then I pick blackberries for me. They are sweet and fragrant even at the end of summer.

The dogs and I arrive at the little weather-worn barn. It’s somewhat sagging and missing a few boards but still standing solid. As I prepare saddle and brushes I notice newly hatched swallows in a nest above the barn door. The mama and papa swallows dive-bomb us as we come and go. The babies chirp relentlessly.

We go looking for the horses. Sometimes they are under the big cedars keeping out of the sun and flies, sometimes in the lower pasture where the witch grass grows taller than me. Today is a warm day, so I guess they will be under the trees. And there they are, standing close, tail to nose working cooperatively swishing the flies off each other. The air is thick with pitch and evergreen and horse. I make my way through the herd safeguarding Lanie’s apple. I give it to her and watch how she lustily devours it, juice dripping down her chin.

Lanie is the sister of a movie star. Her brother, Raswan, was the star in “The Black Stallion Returns”. Lanie is a black Arabian, and is a beauty.

Lanie follows me down to the barn; I brush her, enjoying the feeling of her silky coat and noticing her enjoyment. I love her horsy scent. Then I saddle her up and lead her to the nearest rock and climb on.

We begin our ride past the hedgerows of wild roses and blackberry bushes. The quail families scuttle along ahead, and then dodge in to the safety of the bushes. Sometimes we ride through the expansive fields. It is never a relaxing ride however, because the horses are on the alert for creatures lurking in the hedges. I keep my leg on, for I know in an instant a deer could jump out frightening us both and sending Lanie off at a gallop, hopefully with me still onboard. For this reason I prefer the trails. I whistle to the dogs we start along a wooded path. On this particular day we begin the ride by jumping over a ditch. We head up Jungle Trail at a gallop. Passing by ferns and huge old growth fir trees. I notice alizarin, golds, rust, emerald and forest greens. Colors are so

Its All In The Label

First I put on my lingerie from Nordstroms. Then I pull on my Witt and Wisdom designer jeans, 5 years old and three days past needing a launder. Nice quality shirt from a fancy shop on Pearl Street in Boulder; a little past its prime but still comfy and practical. Over the nice shirt, the lingerie and the designer jeans goes my Costco fleece, and then my favorite Filson. If a person lives in the Northwest they are going to know Filson. Last but not least I pull on a pair of Hunter boots. I am island styling.

I am at Market Place in Friday Harbor and notice Shabby Chic is the style. Nice fitting, well designed somewhat used, comfortable clothes. I look around and I see most of the ladies are dressed the same. I fit right in.

This got me thinking there is a distinct dress code and manner wherever I go. Eastern Washington is all about Camo. Montana and Wyoming high waisted Wranglers with big buckles and extra large pickup trucks. Boulder Colorado is label all the way. REI, North Face, Patagonia. Oh, did I mention yoga pants? Not only does a person need to wear yoga pants in Boulder, it is desirable to look good in yoga pants. The way people dress and the way we act is unique to each culture.

When I live in a place for any length of time I conform to the local dress code. Boulder is a tough one because the average body fat composition is about 20% and with the need for spandex I had to make adjustments. Yoga classes, workout trainer, spinning classes, cycling, cross country skiing and hiking. Vanity is arduous.

When I moved back to the island after being gone for 14 years I was wearing yoga pants, Free People shirt and an electric blue Patagonia jacket. It didn’t take me long to discover I felt out of place. I appeared to be a tourist, even. As time went on I unintentionally chose clothes that are more island. My lifestyle is different here. I get dirty because I do dirty things; garden, paint, ride horses for instance. My electric blue jacket hangs in a closet and only comes out when I go to Colorado.

There is another thing too. The way people socialize is different. In Boulder I needed to make plans to get together with friends weeks in advance and if I invite 10 people, 6 will show up. On the island if I invite 10 people, 18 will show up. And this can happen in less than an hour.

If invited to dinner in Boulder the host will ask, “Dietary restrictions?” Gluten free, dairy free, egg free and so on.” You get the picture. Here on the island I am asked, “red, white, tequila or rum?” Dietary restrictions all the same. There are other differences too. When I get to my little dinner party the conversation in Colorado will be about my meditation practice, art and yoga. Which lineage we are following, Vajrayana, Mahayana, or Hinayana? The point is; In Boulder you better know the differences between the Yanas and the Yamas. On the island conversations have a different twist and I have discovered in order to keep up I better know my Port from my Aft. Still learning.

Whether we are talking about mannerisms or dress codes, the uniqueness of a place is intriguing. One place is not right and one wrong, just different. I like being a bit of a Chameleon and now I need to put on my Tiva’s and go to the beach.

Smell the Roses

I wake up with my face resting on the window ledge. Nose facing out. The fragrance hits me first. A pungent aroma of wild roses and sweet smell of Hawthorn. Cat I call Tiny Tubby is curled up under my arm and Kiwi, the orange tabby is on the next pillow. Griffin, the boy Wolfhound is on the sheepskin rug by my bed and Fenwick, Wolfhound number two, is a few feet away. Two stray cats look up at my bedroom window anticipating breakfast. Stella, the black cat from up the hill will be here in a minute.

It is 5 am and I can see the sun beginning to rise from behind Mount Baker. Mount Baker is my mountain. I call it that because it is the center of every room in my house. I walk in the front door and there it is. Unique everyday. Sometimes pink, sometimes blue, other times shrouded by mist.

I get up and make tea. Sun is streaming in the windows and I feel warm.
I think, write, plan, putter, sit.

I moved to Boulder Colorado in July of 2003. Newly divorced and needing a new start. Packed up a U-Haul with my 3 kids, dog, 3 cats and our stuff. Headed east. I thought I should try being a small fish in the big pond. Thought I would be happy. Thought I would find success. I hit the continental divide and cried all the way to Boulder. I didn’t stop crying until mid September.

Regret, worry and hesitation hit me hard. I walked into my new suburban rental and immediately wondered how I could get back to my island. This did not feel like home. I felt completely alone surrounded by so many people. Kids were small and registered in a new Colorado school.

House in Friday Harbor was rented. Nope, I was stuck. I worked my art business and taught thousands of people how to paint. I got married and divorced. I finished an art degree at a Buddhist University and I learned how to meditate. I met some wonderful people and I never stopped missing my island.

I daydreamed about the magic of the San Juan’s. The intoxicating smells, the colors, the drizzle and cloudy days. I dreamed about this feminine place that nurtures and embraces me. This place where friendships flourish and lovers are born. I felt as if the island wanted me too.

A pull. I began a vision to get back to my home. Back to my people. Back to my tribe and my flowers, owls, eagles, quail, rabbits, foxes, little birds, deer, trees, beaches and my mountain.

July 1st 2015 I landed, full time, both feet. I am back.

And here I am, still smelling the roses.

I Am a Mediocre Mom

I am a mediocre mom. I figure if I just claim my mediocrity. It takes the pressure off.

My daughter graduated from high school this week. Talk about pressure and hard work for these youngsters. Getting them ready for the real world they say. Stress and competition and the main goal- good academic grades.

I am a mediocre mom because I support my girls in the B’s and much as the A’s. I support them in the C’s if that is where they are right now and I let them know I love them just as much. There were 64 graduates this year and not one is better than another. All of them have a calling and a beauty inside and out. It may not be getting A’s and top scores. It may be in their heart. In the way they help people or animals or saving our planet. I say we need to celebrate all of these young adults and encourage them to find their own unique voice. Guide them in trusting their instincts and heart. Academics is important but it is not the only score to our value. I wish for them to love themselves as deeply as they deserve. They are our future and they are complete.

How arrogant would I be if I assumed I knew what success meant for Emma when I come from a different generation? These young adults have a future nothing like mine so how can I judge? Let us encourage them to find the voice that is unique to them. We have much to learn from their wisdom. Our lives develop in layers and we cannot become who we are by eliminating any one layer. No regrets. No shame. No Blame.

I was sitting in the bleachers with some good friends. It was hot and I was thirsty so I asked a friend to bring water. The only container he could find was a flask. Roche harbor water in a flask at high school graduation. I laughed out loud. So, like I said I am a mediocre mom. I have not been involved in the graduation events and have-not participated in the volunteer opportunities. I am not on the PTA, or any of the other TA’s. I am a mediocre mom so drinking out of a flask may come across as appropriate.

I am a mediocre mom and once in a blue moon, maybe on a full moon, I will crack open a bottle of nice wine. Go in the hot tub with my daughter and talk about boys and love, life, sex, politics and the future. We will be honest and tell each other secrets. We dig deep into the recesses that will guide my girl in her future. I am so incredibly proud of my daughters and in awe of all three for who they are. I hope all of the perfect moms as well as the mediocre ones tell their daughters and sons that they are superb just the way they are.

I encourage you to celebrate with your children. If it is with C’s or A’s or B’s because that is where they are right now. Love them as much for the D as the A.

It is all worth it. Join me in my mediocrity and accept and love these young men and women no matter what and just the way they are.

John Evans
Greg Hertel
Mary Kalbert
Ron Keeshan
Gordy Petersen
Janice Peterson
Bruce Sallan
Teresa Smith
Terra Tamai
Amy Wynn
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