The Year of the Fox

Early this spring I started a new job. The work I’m doing has absolutely nothing to do with any industry I’ve ever worked in before.

Being out of work for a couple months, I’ll admit without shame, that along with my computer skills, it was mainly nepotism that enabled me this means of employment.

This current position entails weighing vehicles, big trucks for the most part, in and out of a gravel pit.

My office is in a solidly build shed, and this “wee hoose” as I like to call it, has a view of the gravel pit, but also overlooks a lovely stream, a big pond, and a lush forest.

With three big windows, the office is bright, and contains comfy chairs, a big desk, some shelving, my kettle, the weigh scale for the trucks, a work computer, my personal laptop, an air conditioner, a heater, depending on the weather, and happily, it has the fastest internet connection I’ve ever experienced!

It has become my home away from home. : )

(Just a sidebar, someone I’d describe as a ‘frenemy’ said to me a few weeks ago, “I hear you’re working in a basement!” which was meant to be a snide remark & an effort to point out just how far beneath her she thinks I am.

– Moral of that story? These kinds of bullys are at all levels of society. Avoid them at all cost, but pity them, too! They’re unhappy with their own little lives and only seek to make everyone else around them just as miserable as they are.)

But I digress… ūüôā

So, previously to this job, I’d worked with some wonderful ladies at a local flower shop. Hired to work there only three weeks after closing my own brick-and-mortar shop, the position was good on paper. It’s without ego that I’ll say I’m a good floral designer, and I like to work in a creative environment, making yes, pretty things with flowers. A good flower arrangement is a form of communication. It visually states what most people want to say, but may not always have the right words with which to do so. I can relate to that.

And, being a people pleaser, (but learning how to set boundaries, as you may have noticed two paragraphs above), I love creating products & making things that takes a personal occasion and kicks it up a notch, leaving people happy and with good memories of their event.

In any case, the daily round trip/drive of about 80 km/50 miles to this flower shop, especially during extreme winter weather, (which can be 5 months of the year here in Haliburton), good for skiing, but not for me as a driver, combined with having to make some floral deliveries in that same weather, (which I probably could have gotten out of if I’d only thought to ask), was creating extreme anxiety and panic attacks within me. I decided to leave.

Not exactly heroic, but there you go.

Fight or flight… I chose the latter.

In hindsight, having taken the floral designer position so soon after closing my own shop, when I hadn’t (yet) gotten over the closing of my own business, along with that belief that it was the only way to be head honcho of my own destiny, (plus having to see the pile of products, props, and shelving from my former shop, moved, and at that point, laying waste in my basement, yet to be sifted through and organized), sent me into a tailspin of depression.

Though I’d fully participated in this decision to take that job, I now found myself working for someone else, and in a retail establishment similar to my own former shop, and despite the wonderful women I was working with, I was truly unhappy, and I found it difficult to keep up a pretence of ‘being over’ something, when in fact I hadn’t even dealt with it yet, and I wasn’t sure how.

At that point, I still felt I had something to prove to the outside world. Believe me. I don’t now, and you don’t either! When you realize this as fact, it’s the most freeing feeling in the whole world.

But, at that time, I had suppressed my feelings of loss, and it was difficult to move on when many of the people, (this is a small town, remember), lovely former customers/friends who had previously frequented my own establishment, were now shopping there, and asking me (kindly) questions about why my shop had to close, and telling me how much they missed it.

I still missed it, too. And I was bitter when thinking about ‘what might have been’.

It was bittersweet too, because everyone was genuinely kind-hearted and well-meaning, wishing me well, but from my point of view, I was nothing but a big, fat failure.

This very personal admission was not at all intended to be the point of this post, (nor was putting my heart on my sleeve for all to see, being the private, introverted Scorpio being that I am!), but I can tell you that it is healing to purge (both emotions and tangible physical clutter), and at least for me, it’s a healing process.

Part of the process that has helped me get past those feelings of despair was admitting and embracing how I really felt.

This can feel like a breath of fresh air flooding in, when like me, you think you’ve lost your way, and what you may have thought was meant to be your life’s purpose, too.

Once I realized I didn’t actually have to prove anything to anyone, these feelings of inadequacy subsided.

Sure, I’m not perfect and never will be, and wouldn’t want to be, but when I feel some sort of negative thought coming on, even if it’s just about the weather, I realize that it’s just a thought and it has no power over me. It’s not something I have to cling to, like a lamplight in a storm. I can just recognize it and then let it go. Learning and practising this mindset freed my depressive state.

So, this mixture of circumstances, partly beyond my control, but mainly due to choices, (no finger pointing), led me to where I am now… A place in life where I can say (most of the) baggage has left the terminal!

Happily, working closer to home means less winter driving.. something I’ll not warm up to ever, pardon the pun.

So, I think I’ve found the best of both worlds, which includes way more time to spend tending to my own garden, (a good metaphor for life!), I’m not sunk in depression any longer and feel like my old self again, and by that I mean the one from years ago, when I still lived in Toronto.

Once again creating my organic products, (but not slavishly like I was at my old shop on main street), only selling them online, and without expectations, which by the way, will only let you down if you set the bar too high and they go unfulfilled.

By having a full-time day job that I enjoy, and one that offers not only a paycheque, but the absolute pleasure of witnessing a fox family in its natural habitat, (along with several other wild creatures), I’ve been able to see them grow from babies to adulthood, and was just what the doctor ordered!

That was the original point of this post! And for me, something to be grateful about.

Meeting the fox family took place in mid-May this year while getting to know my new surroundings. I  first spotted five of the cutest wee fox kits you ever did see and with their mother initially keeping a close eye on them, they would play in a sand pile across the way from where I work.

Grateful to have my camera on hand, I started taking lots of photos!

All of the kits looked pretty healthy, (as far as I could tell), but I noticed after a while that the mother Fox did not. She was scratching furiously all the time and losing fur at a rapid rate. Then I noticed a few of the kits started to scratch almost as much as her.

It turns out that they had a condition called Mange. This is a type of skin disease caused by parasitic mites who embed themselves in the skin of some mammals, including the fox.

It’s a horrible circumstance for any animal to find themselves in because not only do they lose their fur, (and look like they’re losing their minds with all the scratching they do), but eventually, their skin tightens up so much, (think back to your worst sunburn ever), that even their eyelids close over.

This means they’ll eventually go blind and can’t hunt for food. Inevitably, they die.

Well, I had to help somehow!

After going online to find out more information, (because that’s what we all do nowadays), I was in touch with several veterinarians.

One vet, (who shall remain nameless at their request), offered me the medication for free, however I did end up donating some money to help out a bit. Like any medication nowadays, for animals or people, these pills are not cheap. They look like little cube-shaped kibble, which leads me to explain how I got the foxes to take them. – Cat food of course!

I bought a huge bag of cat food and took it to work.

Next, I put six piles of food out, (one for each fox, obviously) nearest to the place where they played or slept most of the day. And boy, do fox kits ever play! It is joy to witness, and I recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re down in the dumps.

Six piles of food. One pill on each pile. Me, standing not too far away, trying to determine which wee kit had its medication already and which one still had yet to take theirs.

Because of the dosage of the pills, I had to give each fox a pill at the beginning of the month, (early July), and another at the beginning of August, (so, two per fox), further meaning (in my mind), that I had to keep feeding them for that whole month of July just to make sure they’d stick around and receive that second dose in August. Otherwise, it would have been a futile effort for them, meaning I wouldn’t have helped out one bit. They had to have that second pill.

Because of this, I’ve gotten to know them fairly well! A fox family is a tightly knit group of playful and caring individuals, not unlike us!

There’s a definite hierarchy, and the play time is obviously to teach them skills for survival, but they’re intelligent, curious creatures who’ll eat all the things we humans can be skittish about, like snakes, mice, voles, and the like.

Each fox has its own subtly different fur pattern, and after a few weeks I was able to determine which kit was which, making the dispensing of that second dose much easier.

A couple of times I had to remove a pill from one pile and place it on another so one of them would not get a third pill. A bit hair raising at times, but I loved every minute of it.

Throughout all of this, it was never my intention to get overly close or try and tame them, (though a small part of me would have loved to pet one!), and I did my best to remain at arm’s length with these lovely animals.

They were curious about me, too. They’d come right up to my office door and peek in if it was open. I’d move ever so slightly on my chair, which squeaks a bit, and they’d run off, but not too far. Admittedly, the whole attempt has been a thrill, and to have this sort of connection with a wild animal is sublime.

Knowing that I have helped them in some small way is the best part of all.

Happily, I was able to get all of them their second dose, watch them grow, come and go, which happened more frequently by the time September rolled around. They were maturing, and likely out hunting for their own food by this time, so I’d see them less often each day.

As the have months rolled by, I’ve stopped taking so many photos of them. It was as if I knew them now, and felt somehow I was invading their privacy.

Speaking as a person who does not possess a cell phone, (some will think I’m nuts, but I don’t want a self imposed leash), and with all that technology out there today, perhaps we should still try to connect to watching nature in situ, with our eyes and senses, in real time, instead of through a lens to share later on. (Which is what I’m kind of doing now, lol).

Sadly, I know for sure of two foxes were hit by cars on the highway. I saw them both with my own eyes, and had a good cry each time, all the while hoping none of the people coming in to the pit would notice me blubbering away. If they did, they were kind enough not to mention it.

A third I believe was also hit, but has managed to survive so far. I first saw it limping around in late October, but I’ve kept feeding him. There was a big pink wound on his back knee, but he seems much better now, thankfully. The other remaining two are both of very healthy, beautiful animals, with thick gorgeous coats and tail, and without that dreadful mange.

Out of all of this, the reactions of some of the people visiting the gravel pit have impressed me most. Many of these people, mostly guys (without meaning to sound sexist or generalize too much), are truck drivers who’ve likely seen it all in life, but they became invested in this fox adventure with me.

Everyone had stories to share about a positive experience they had with a fox, (or some other animal), that had crossed their path and impressed them during some encounter.

It was lovely! Many would even share a bit of their lunch, (and still do), placing bits of their sandwich or whatever, off to the side of the scale house, in the hopes that they too were helping these animals, and also like me, could partake in this lovely interaction with nature at work.

Fast forward to December. Winter is upon us. I see the foxes, maybe once or twice a week. If not, that’s fine because I see their tracks in the snow when I get to work in the morning, so I know they were around.

I don’t hold expectations for next year, or dare hope to repeat this little adventure, (especially the mange part), but I sure do hope the foxes thrive over the winter, and that they might stop by once in a while. Maybe with kits of their own!

Maybe I’ve learned that nature is the best medicine.

Maybe I’ve shared way too much, here! But no matter… everyone has to shake the dust off from time to time.¬†In any case, the year of the fox is one I’ll never forget.

Thoughts of Spring and Crocus flowers lead me to the garden

n the first day of Spring my thoughts always lead me to the garden.

One of the first flowers to greet me after a long winter is the lovely Crocus.

With petal colours varying from white, purple, yellow, and even striped, this small perennial bulb, (corm), planted in autumn for its spring show, originates from the Alps, and offers abundant blossoms that brighten up the beds, often while other parts of the my garden are still heavily laden with snow.

Ancient legend relates Crocus as an unfortunate lover. The myth centres around his unfulfilled and tragic love for Smilax, a woodland nymph, also transformed but in her case, as a brambly vine. His sorrow it is said, awakened sympathy from the gods who aided his metamorphosis into what we now know as this dainty spring flower.

According to old lists containing flower meanings, the Crocus flower is equated to both ‘Spring’ and ‘cheerfulness’. And why not after a long, dreary winter?! Both meanings seem quite appropriate!

Out from the heart of the Crocus,
There leaped to my heart a song,
It was as though an angel
Had borne the word along,
And its message drew and held me,
Until my soul was strong.

~ E.M. Hill

Saffron, the stigma from Crocus sativus is a very expensive spice. Along with being a food additive, it scents perfumes, cosmetics, and is a component of traditional medicines. Studies show it works as an anti-carcinogentic, boosts the immune system, and is an antioxidant.

Shown on frescoes dating from 1700 B.C., it’s no wonder this flower has been cultivated and harvested since ancient times in the Middle East, North Africa, India, and throughout the Mediterranean region.

In any case, with three feet of snow still to melt in my neck of the woods, I’ll think of this flower, and others, biding my time until I get to enjoy their presence once again.

Happy Spring!


 

Itchy Green Fingers? Lets Start Sowing #Seeds

Gardeners can¬†rejoice because it’s time to¬†get the jump on spring! Time to¬†start sowing¬†seeds indoors.

If you have itchy green fingers this time of year like I do, here are some suggestions on how to get growing!

In¬†in a pinch, (pun intended),¬†and need¬†to find quick and¬†inexpensive labels? Clothes pins are the way to go,¬†(popsicle sticks work equally well), and it’s simple to write the variety of seed you’re growing on them and then¬†clip them¬†to the pot.

When the time comes to planting the seedlings in the garden, the clothespin can be switched to a bamboo stake, or a popsicle stick can be stuck right in the ground.

These¬†labels can be decorated, too! That’s a great way to involve the kids, and¬†we all know Pinterest¬†offers an abundance of creative¬†ideas to do just¬†that. ūüôā

Egg shells and egg cartons work particularly well. The egg is nature’s packaging, and the carton is a ready made holder that conveniently comes with the eggs!

After that Sunday breakfast, keep the shells and pot them up with your seeds.

Eggshells will do more than just keep slugs away from¬†a Hosta.¬†¬†They’re an organic way to provide calcium¬†to the soil.¬†The seedlings benefit, and any worms in the garden will be quite happy to make compost out of them.

The¬†whole enchilada¬†can be planted in the ground, and the best thing of all is that their¬†tender¬†roots won‚Äôt be disturbed once it’s time for them to be planted outside.

Containers from¬†newspapers work well, too. The best 20 bucks I ever spent was on a¬†pot maker purchase! Every year¬†it repays me because it’s easy to make these recycled containers, which also keeps¬†some paper out of the landfill site.¬†Newspaper will break down in the garden,¬†so they too¬†can be planted directly in to the garden.

No muss, no fuss.

My kind of gardening!

 

In appreciation of spring – poets and portals

The beginning of¬†T.S. Eliot‚Äôs poem, ‚ÄúThe Waste Land,‚Ä̬†opens with¬†‚ÄúApril is the cruellest month‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

Truly, I¬†couldn’t agree more with this assessment.

Here in Ontario, we’ve sampled just about the worst¬†role of¬†every season during¬†this one month alone.¬†April’s¬†weather forecasts were not on their best behaviour, offering¬†only a few days¬†taste of¬†the tantalizing weather yet¬†to come.

In my neck of the woods, the temps dropped overnight and it actually snowed. Thankfully a light dusting was all we received and most has now dissipated.

In any case, most¬†poems about spring¬†are uplifting,¬†¬†giving us hope for rejuvenation and¬†renewal¬†in our own lives and our gardens. These written words are like¬†doors¬†opening to¬†better times ahead… an optimistic t√™te-√†-t√™te,¬†or¬†a literary sightseeing adventure,¬†taking us from¬†death towards the newness and rebirth¬†of spring.

These portals are waiting to be cracked opened by the reader. It seems that doors and books have much in common! One may encounter something entirely more pleasant on the other side if the door handle is turned or the cover flipped.

With that in mind, I stumbled upon (a snippet of) a poem like that only this morning while perusing Pinterest.

Intrigued, I tracked down the rest, enjoying the lovely imagery offered, that in my mind sum up the best parts of spring!


‚ÄúApril Weather‚ÄĚ by Lizette Woodworth Reese¬†

From – A Handful of Lavender (1891)

Oh, hush, my heart, and take thine ease,

For here is April weather!

The daffodils beneath the trees

Are all a-row together.

 

The thrush is back with his old note;

The scarlet tulip is blowing;

And white ‚Äď ay, white as my love‚Äôs throat ‚Äď

The dogwood boughs are growing.

 

The lilac bush is sweet again;

Down every wind that passes,

Fly flakes from hedgerow and from lane;

The bees are in the grasses.

 

A Grief goes out, and Joy comes in,

And Care us but a feather;

And every lad his love can win,

For here is April weather.


Links with further reading and information about the author:

 

 

Celebrating Earth Day while waiting for Spring

Earth Day, until this year, always leads me outside to celebrate a day close to my heart. I celebrate this important day in this little section of our lovely planet that I call my garden.

Every year I look forward to the clean dirt under my fingernails, the chance to snap photos of any life emerging¬†beneath my feet, the sight of scent of flowers and buds, and the chance to tidy up of winter’s litter.

That activity includes ridding the garden of fallen branches, along with my yearly, somewhat meditative activity of flipping those Vole trails, (which look like miniature WW1 trenches), in the lawn back in to place with my feet.

Not so this year. To be in the garden right now means tromping through snow!

This is not my idea of fun, or my idea of any spring for that matter. (Even my cat Luna doesn’t want to go outside. Great minds think alike!)

The snowy photo here was taken just¬†last weekend. As any of you¬†fellow gardeners can¬†likely relate,¬†I was not a happy camper. ūüėČ

Spring just isn’t willing to fully¬†embrace me here in middle Ontario yet, and Mother Nature has not eliminated the snow in my garden.

My¬†response?¬†I’ve turned the other cheek,¬†discarded all expectations of when my favourite season will actually arrive,¬†took¬†the bull by the horns,¬†(along with a few dollars),¬†and bought myself a lovely¬†potted¬†Primula,¬†or as I like to call it, that¬†little bit of spring to enjoy in the kitchen until I’m sure this¬†winter is truly done.

Having said that, the day is holding some promise!

Currently, the sun is shining which in turn means the snow is melting. Things are looking up, pardon the pun. The temperature is actually above zero.. smiles all around!

On second thought,¬†I’m going out and tromp around in the snow after all.

Enjoy and take care of your spot on our planet.

Happy Earth Day!