Early Spring!

Watch oil painting “Strawberry Flower” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

We’re having an early spring here in Southern Georgia, USA. One of my strawberry plants already has a flower on it and a few strawberries! I was busy most of the day planting seeds and tending to other garden jobs. The sun was shining for about half of that time and it was easy to forget the troubles of this world. When things get to you, try planting something and watch it grow. I don’t know why it’s so therapeutic to do this, but it just is.

I ordered myself a couple of gardening T-shirts. I was laughing at all of the fun choices. I settled on “It’s not hoarding if it’s plants”. LOL! That’s what I’ve actually said before. And the other I chose is “I just want to work in my garden and hang out with my butterflies”. You might remember me blogging about something similar in post “I Joined the Butterflies”, so I just couldn’t resist that one! I also got two positive thinking shirts: “Faith over Fear” and “Do More of What Makes You Happy”. Then I was definitely at the end of my budget and had to stop! But, that’s my summer wardrobe sorted. I only needed a few T shirts for working outside. I’m good on dressy clothes, but those aren’t practical for digging in the dirt.


I’ve Joined the Butterflies!

Watch this oil painting come to life in 1 minute (time lapse)

I’ve come back inside after a crazy experience with nature! So, first the background story: my daughter found a bright happy tank top blouse at the thrift store and imagined me wearing it as I happily tend to my patio garden. It’s a turquoise/teal with a bright magenta/fuchsia floral print. And, indeed, I am wearing the blouse right now, and was tending to the garden…

I was bent down low to the ground because I was checking on the strawberry plant runners. Before tropical storm Elsa blew through the Savannah area, I removed my strawberry plant from its hanging hook (the winds would have knocked it to the ground), and placed it in the crook of a tree, near ground level. I decided to leave it in that sheltered place and realized it was easy to propagate new strawberry plants by adding small pots to the end of the runners (vines that create knobby sections that produce roots for new strawberry plant offspring if they connect with soil).

Anyway, so that’s what I was doing. I’m a small person (five feet one inch tall) with very dark hair. When I was squatting down near the tree, examining the strawberry runner pots on the ground, apparently all that could be seen of me is my bright floral shirt because suddenly and overwhelmingly I had become one with nature! I’d joined the butterflies or something….

Cardinals came out of the woodwork (literally, they flew out of the nearby woods), and gathered quite near to me. I held my breath, watching them through the branches of the tree that held my strawberry plant. It was quite fun to be so close to these beautiful wild birds! I turned my head to see that I was surrounded by nature, as suddenly a hummingbird was flying directly to me!

There was an awkward moment when the hummingbird realized his mistake. I was not a flower or a butterfly, or any part of his natural world. He hovered in the balance for a couple of breathless seconds. It felt as if time stood still. His wings fluttered in a soundless blur. Then, he zipped away as fast as his little body could go.

With my cover blown and bitten by mosquitoes, I went back inside. But what an exhilarating experience! For a brief time I’d joined the butterflies and was one of “them”, the tiny beautiful creatures of nature. In that world, nothing else matters but the moment. The family of cardinals flew together, taking turns at the bird feeder. Family and food, with a superpower to fly- what a life!

We too can prioritize good food and good company to share it with. It’s really our own choice to deprive ourselves of the daily celebration of life that the wild birds and butterflies have. True, we cannot fly, but we can surround ourselves with beauty, and make joyful basic needs our primary focus. It doesn’t take much money to enjoy a savory meal with people we love. During these troubled times, we need happiness more than ever.

God bless you, my dear friends. Join the butterflies for a few minutes today. The only moment that really matters is now.

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Growing or Thriving?

Do you remember when I first posted “Strawberry Flower” (when I painted it in April)? At the time, the strawberry wasn’t actually ripe yet. Indeed, it was barely a strawberry when I chose to paint my daughter’s strawberry plant that hangs outside. I painted into the future a bit, by imagining the strawberry as already ripe and ready to eat. Shortly afterward, my amazing prophesy came true! 😉

This morning I checked on my patio garden and I was alarmed to see that the cucumber vine had found my beloved new peach tree! ACK! I will need to end that monstrosity! I’ll unwind the coiling tendrils from it’s grip on the young peach tree trunk and attempt to “train” the vine to go where I want it to go. Diverting the vine from grabbing hold of random things nearby has been an ongoing battle with this crazy cucumber plant, which now looks like Jack’s beanstalk. Suppose I shall climb it someday to see what’s beyond the clouds?

On a happier note, I’ll soon have a bumper crop of cucumbers, most of which I plan to make homemade pickles with. They’ll make sandwiches taste delicious! I’ll also include other vegetables when I make pickles, so there’s plenty of flavor. The nutrition is better than buying pickles from a store, but not as good as eating cucumbers raw without any added sugar. The ones we eat straight from the garden will offer the best benefits.

And now for the vine metaphor that this blog post is leading to… thriving vs growing:

The cucumbers and strawberries are both are big success. My oldest daughter and I were wistful after seeing my youngest’s prized project, so we now each have strawberry plants too. Ours are also thriving. All three of our plants have grown vines that suspend below the pots. It’s possible to grow more strawberry plants from the vines if they grow roots. So, not only do we have delicious strawberries today, but we may have more plants for the future. And as I’ve already mentioned, my cucumber vines are sprawling endlessly. 

However, my wisteria vine is merely growing. The first year, we had plenty of beautiful, truly gorgeous, draping purple blossoms swaying from the expanse of its vine. The following two years, we had no flowers at all. The vine simply grew and grew, winding itself around and around and around, teasing us with leafy foliage, some of which would then die off and leave a mess behind. 

This season, the wisteria vine produced a single flower. That’s it, just the one. Then the vine continued to grow, spiraling around everything in its path. Before I caught it, it had wound itself around my dear red roses and snapped one of the established budding stems, severing it! It killed one of my roses! That got my Irish up, so I was quick to yank the wisteria vine and move it to the “naughty corner” of the garden where it is now sentenced to winding itself around an ugly post. It has beautified the post, and it has no roses to harm. From there, it’s fine that it may do nothing more than grow and grow, without ever producing the flowers that it is capable of.

With my metaphor firmly rooted, let’s ponder this philosophical question: Are we growing or thriving? When we simply muddle through life, adjusting to the changes in seasons by adapting and surviving, we may grow without thriving. We may even be a harmful influence on others, as our energy overpowers those who were flowering or producing fruit, suppressing them or even breaking their spirits. 

When a vine grows and grows without producing much, it may be more invasive than beneficial- like the wisteria. Even if a vine will one day produce a bountiful harvest, like the cucumbers, if the initial growth is a vine that latches on to everything else to pull itself up, it may harm the garden as the vine gets itself where it wants to go. The method to our success matters. A truly thriving spirit doesn’t need to pull others down to raise themselves up.

The strawberry plant has dropped vines that are not only producing fruit, but are floating below the plant, swaying in the warm breeze like it’s dancing. My daughter has placed a window planter box on a table below her plant (the plant I painted in the video at the top of this post), and the vines are gently hovering over it, nearly sweeping the soil now. Soon, they will land and we’ll see if she can grow more strawberry plants from these pretty vines.

A person who is thriving will dance through life without hurting anyone. When they succeed, they will drop their vines to inspire others to grow and thrive as well. There is a big difference between growing and thriving, and it also matters greatly how we get to where we want to go: if we keep climbing without ever reaching down to lift others up, or if we remember where we came from and look back to help those who are left behind.

Whether an underachieving and toxic wisteria, or a successful but overpowering cucumber, if we are a vine who goes on whatever path we want, with no regard for others, we aren’t thriving. We’re just growing, until one day we are no more. In the end, we’ll have nothing to show for our time here, but a withering coiled vine that eventually fades away.

But if we are a strawberry vine, we leave behind the ones we’ve inspired. We are never truly gone, as our energy carries on into the future. This is a life that is not merely growing, but thriving.

Maybe we’ll remember my wisteria-cucumber-strawberry metaphor when we feel too lazy, tired, or discouraged to work and invest in others the way that we know we should. I include myself in this. Whenever I come up with these metaphors for you, I put these seeds into my own mind as well. I feel instantly hypocritical if I don’t practice what I preach. So, I’ll strive to be a strawberry plant. And it just so happens that my favorite color is red!

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“Strawberry Flower”

Watch Natalie paint this art in 2 minutes (time lapse)

“Strawberry Flower” is included in the collection “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Nature“. This art was inspired by a strawberry plant tended to by Natalie’s daughter. The delight upon seeing the pretty little flower appear and then the first juicy red strawberry is now a warm memory of the first summer days living in the Deep South (Georgia, United States).

“Strawberry Flower” oil painting by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

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