Leaves, Stones, Memories, Words

Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels.

Being surrounded by plants keeps me centered – mentally, emotionally, creatively. My yard consists largely of sun- and drought-tolerant plants – sage, Arizona honeysuckle, lantana, African daisies – nestled among jagged gravel, sandy earth and stone ledges. Inside, a house full of leafy tropicals fills my daily requirement for green life and black dirt. Plants simply make my house a home. And since I write at home, plants also make my office a relaxing workplace.

It’s true, and not just because I’m a nature nut (even though I am). It’s science.

Research from the University of Hyogo in Japan shows that having just one small potted plant on your desk helps reduce stress. The researchers analyzed employee behavior with and without a plant in their offices. The participants were directed to take a 3-minute rest while sitting at their desks when they felt fatigue. Those who had a plant were instructed to gaze intentionally at the plant during their break; some even took things a step further by watering or otherwise tending to the plant.

During the work breaks, researchers measured employee stress levels based on heart rates, oxygen and pulse levels. The results were consistent. Employee stress level “dropped considerably” if they had a plant.

I have four plants in my office and more than 30 throughout my home. Lucky me.

Gazing at and tending plants not only reduces my stress, it nurtures memories and provides inspiration for my #writing.

Gazing at and tending plants not only reduces my stress, it nurtures memories and provides inspiration for my writing. I recently repotted a peace lily that had outgrown its receptacle. As I removed it from the container and gently loosened the tightly packed roots with my finger, I noticed the rocks in the bottom of the empty container.

The first time I had repotted the lily, we were living in different house. I had collected a handful of smooth, colorful river rocks from the backyard to create drainage in the bottom of the pot. Without realizing it, I had brought a piece of that home with me to the new house when the plant moved with us. I had preserved more than one memory in the potted lily. I had preserved 20 years of memories from life in that old house.

After situating the lily in its new vessel, I watered it and fed it. Then I carried the river rocks out to the backyard and scattered them among the gumball-sized gravel. Blended together, they became my past, present and future – an indistinguishable jumble of red, gray, blue and beige hues, of smooth lumps and jagged edges. Just like my writing. Just like my life.

Photo by freestocks.org  from Pexels.

The Last Christmas Card

Sister RaymondMore than 25 years ago, I received a pack of Christmas cards from Sister Mary Raymond McGinty with images of her original paintings. Each year since then, I’ve mailed only a few of the cards to friends and family. It was important to me that they last as long as possible. I couldn’t quite explain why (not even to myself) until today, as I sat down to address the last few cards.

The Sister was in her 80s when I knew her. She was a volunteer in the communications department at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. I was 17 and thrilled to be working for the hospital in my first gig as a paid freelance writer.

Sister Raymond was tiny and spry. She hustled in and out of the elevator and up and down the halls at the hospital. She always seemed to have an urgent purpose. Yet, she never hesitated to stop and visit, to share her insights. She was a Sister of Mercy and had worked more than 40 years as a nurse before she began her stint as a communications volunteer. Sister Raymond had many gifts. She was a font of knowledge.

Through Sister Raymond’s example, I witnessed the benefit and value of many things – working hard, acting with purpose, taking care of others, sharing your gifts.

Sister Raymond - 1989

During a newsletter photo shoot, Sister Raymond and I look through one of the many hospital scrapbooks she assembled. (1989)

As I place stamps on the last of her Christmas cards (and set one card aside to keep for myself), I feel extremely blessed to have known Sister Raymond and learned from her during such a pivotal time in my life and career.

Following is the message Sister Raymond included in the cards. It is a wish I extend to all, today and in years to come.

May the peace, love and good will of Christmas give us faith to face the New Year with hope and joy.

 

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Charting a Writing Career Path


little girl on the roadBlogger Karen Randau recently interviewed me about my
professional writing path and my thoughts on publishing with a small press. She
did a wonderful job of distilling our conversation into a helpful article for
aspiring authors. I invite you to visit her blog to read the article, “Get
Your Foot in the Publishing Door Through a Small Press
.”

 

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