One Day At A Time

Does it seem, in a lot of ways, that life has slowed wayyyyyyyy down recently? I mean, there is work to do for sure in my home office, and things never change in that regard. Happy to be still employed. But there are no real plans being made, no restaurant visits, no vacations or trips planned for the immediate future, no real plans to get together with friends socially? No group rides for the moment. The social interaction between co-workers is limited to Microsoft Teams,Zoom, and Emails. The interaction with friends, at least for me, is limited to socially distanced mountain bike rides with a few friends, and interacting with some lone trail lovers removing trees from the recent storms.  Or, riding a lot by myself on some remote trails nearby. I think often of the group rides we all enjoyed. I even daydreamed back to the days at this time of year when I would be sitting in a pack of road cyclists, 6 inches from each others wheel and roaring down the local and country roads here in Western Pa. The only scenery I saw was the back of some guys shorts but we all enjoyed the rides, races, and activity afterwards. We always said the social element was as good as the rides. But for the moment, that is suspended and we move about in this current world of the unknown.

I have always been a planner. Where are we riding? Where are we meeting afterwards? Where is the next trip planned? Who is going? We better make plane and general reservations. Time to get the car ready for a road trip. Are we going to the party? That has come to a screeching halt and most of my interaction any more is with my wife and my mother in law who lives with us. But………I am learning something through all of this. I am learning to appreciate my family. Learning to slow down. Learning to enjoy and appreciate each day. One day at a time. Instead of running at 100MPH looking for my next adventure or gathering, I am enjoying the day at a slower pace and taking in some things that I never did before. Take daffodils for instance. I never really paid much attention to them other than when my dad, the consummate gardener, asked me to pinch off the dead flowers so that they would grow fully again next spring. I was in such a hurry that I got the weed whacker and just whacked all of them off the stalks, much to my dads chagrin. I never really paid much attention to the blossoms and new flower growth over my past years. I was usually running out of the house, or riding by all of that in a frenzy. Now with some socially distanced time out of the house, I have slowed down and notice things like …….daffodils. Also, forsythia. I think of my mom now when I see the blooming forsythia. She used to bring some sprigs in at the end of winter to force them to bloom in a vase in our house. She wanted spring to come so badly that she did whatever she could to bring spring into the house. I now see the beautiful blossoms on the trees and when I ride or take a hike, I can see and smell them and really enjoy them.

Talking to my friend Pete the other day on a socially distanced mountain bike ride, we both remarked how fortunate we are to at least get out on these days and get some exercise. And we do it, one day at a time. That is all we really can do. Enjoy each day and appreciate friends and family. And appreciate all the beauty that is around us because we have the time and inclination to do that now.

Which brings me to my final point this week. We are all starting to realize that we really are not in control of things. In my opinion, I believe that God has a plan in all of this. I just think we have to trust that He is the one in control. And He gives us what we need – day by day. We just have to focus on each day as it comes. There will be brighter days ahead. Thanks for reading.

Moses said to them,” It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded:” Each one is to gather as much as he needs….No one is to keep any of it until morning” Exodus 16:15-16,19

The Gardener

Every time I see a flower, I think of my dad.Whether it is at the shore with the landscaping that captures my eye, or Phipps Conservatory, or the mountain laurel I see on my mountain bike rides in the Laurel Highlands, I think of my dad. For as long as I can remember, my dad had a passion for growing flowers. In our basement on Siebert Road, he would have racks set up in our basement with trays of seedlings growing under artificial light. I can remember him patiently planting his Burpee seeds into the little pots filled with potting soil and vermiculite and watering carefully with MiracleGro until it was time to take the trays outside in the spring and plant his flower beds. Never did he plant anything before Memorial Day because of potential frost, but the basement was overcrowded with trays and trays of flowers grown all winter from seed.

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Being an engineer, he designed an interesting tool that consisted of a simple electric drill, a special drill bit, and a long auger. When it came time to plant, it was always a weekend affair where I would be on my hands and knees filling the drilled holes in the flower beds with a specifically instructed lineup of flora. Allyssum was the delicate front row of the beds followed by yellow and orange miniature marigolds, backed up by geraniums, and finished with petunias and giant marigolds. This was the annual lineup of planting and as the years went on, the volume of flowers increased. His hanging baskets would burst with color and the weight of the growth would strain the very chain on which they were hung. The same meticulous lineup appeared in the hanging baskets and half barrels supported by large clay pots. Marigolds, geraniums, allyssum, and petunias always made up the pots and baskets with vining lantana that eventually cascaded out of the baskets and pots onto the ground. Watering with MiracleGro was the secret to healthy flowers and my dad used boxes and boxes of this plant food all summer long. IMG_0932

I was always the cheap labor- again, strong back weak mind that assisted with the planting weekend as well as taking care of the watering duties when my folks were away. When we moved to Wexford, my dad built a Lord and Burnham greenhouse where he really stepped it up. My duties as the watering guy were carefully explained to me with different nozzles for different trays of flowers but this is where I was different from my dad. My dad had patience where I was always anxious to get to some event and was always in a hurry. I would run into the greenhouse when the folks were away and hose the hell out of that greenhouse with the first spray nozzle I could find. I was careful not to break any seedlings for fear of ruining all of my dad’s meticulous and careful planting, but I did not take the time that he did switching nozzles to match the delicateness of the plants in his care. It was amazing to me to see his patience in the winter down in that greenhouse. The snow gently falling on the roof with my dad inside carefully watering each plant, in each little pot, in rows and rows of trays with suspended artificial lighting. IMG_0124

There were setbacks along the way and things were not always….”rosy”. Like the time that my dad planted tulips that bloomed like a Dutch garden in the spring. For one day, all the tulips radiated gorgeous color in the sunshine and the next morning they blooms were all gone due to the feasting of the local deer population. I rarely saw my dad angry but that morning, he was ready to strangle the deer bare handed. Another time, he was away and asked if I would carefully pinch off the dead blooms from the daffodils that he planted and I had the brilliant idea to attack the job with a weed wacker. The result was not pretty and my dad was none too happy. You see, patience in not one of my strong suits when it comes to gardening. Perhaps that is why I leave that to my wife and I simply admire the result. IMG_0134

I observed a lot of things about my dad over the years. His patience amazed me with his true passionate hobby of growing flowers. He was a big guy and to see him carefully planting tiny seeds for hours on winter nights, was insightful to his personality. Most people who have hobbies are people who are patient and gain great joy from the effort it takes to build a model airplane, create a candlestick on a lathe, or some other pursuit that takes time and effort along with a lot of patience and love. The result of the effort brings satisfaction to those who create, and appreciation from someone like me who loves to look at flowers due to the example of the efforts of my father. IMG_0930

I will never have his patience for a hobby. Most of my passions lie in outdoor activities. I always say that I am too nervous and jerky for a hobby. But I certainly admire those who pursue those passions and encourage anyone who takes the time and effort to create. Take the time to stop and smell the roses………I do. Thanks for reading.

The Earth Awakens

Still waiting for the trails to dry, but we are getting close in this neck of the woods. In the mean time, I am watching the world awaken from the seat of my road bike.IMG_0154 It is interesting when you go on solo rides through the country roads this time of year, that you can take the time to appreciate spring and how the word awakens to a new season. The sun splashed hillsides yield new floral growth similar to a newborn baby smiling when it is fed after a nap.IMG_0152 If you take it in, you can almost feel the frozen ground melting and draining and enjoying the benefit of longer days and warmer sunshine. The grass grows greener instantly, the air smells fragrant with the scent of blooming plants and blossoming trees. I have to say that for many years, I did not notice. I was always working hard to stay on the wheel of the guy in front of me in a pace line on a road bike. Like the saying goes,” if you aren’t the lead dog, the view is always the same.” I did not take in the signs and the scents of spring in my early days of road riding and road racing. Now I do and it is a very pleasant experience. IMG_0150
My fascination with spring growth was fostered, I suppose, by my dad. He loved flowers. When I was young, he grew marigolds, geraniums, alyssum, and other plants in the basement under artificial light. When he built his new house, he purchased and built a Lord and Burnham greenhouse and spent many a winter night meticulously planting seeds in his plant trays and carefully watering them with the appropriate nozzles and sprays. Miracle Grow was his “go to” plant food and the result was gardens full of thick, colorful growing flowers and planters and hanging baskets groaning under the weight of the thick lush flora.IMG_0124 Whenever I see flower beds or go to the spring flower show at Phipps Conservatory here in Pittsburgh( a National Historic Landmark- built by Lord and Burnham), I think of my dad. IMG_0126 When the plants came out of the greenhouse and were ready to be planted, my dad the engineer, devised a quick way to plant them. He had a drill with an over-sized auger and would drill the hole and yours truly would plant literally hundreds and hundreds of flowers in the beds every year. It was amazing how spring came to life at my dad’s house in Wexford and also our old house on Siebert Road.
My current road riding routine includes stops to enjoy the sights of the back roads of Sewickley, Pa. I will climb to Allegheny Country Club and sit on the bench and watch the golfers approach the holes on the back nine.IMG_0145 The lush green fairways, and the manicured greens remind me of my old caddie days and I take the time to drink it all in on sunny days. I pass horse farms and stop again to visit the horses grazing in the field. Sometimes they make their way over to the fence where I am standing wondering if I have an apple for them? Power Bars and Cliff Bars are not to their liking but maybe I might start bringing an apple or two for their enjoyment? Climbs up out of Sewickley back home are steep but I don’t ride them the way I used to, suffering to keep up with my group. I drop the gearing down and spin my way to the top without taxing myself too much. It is a much more enjoyable way to ride as the 60 year old kid. I enjoy the back roads and even though I can’t wait to get back in the woods on my mountain bike, I do enjoy the road with the sights and scents of spring- including the horse manure. 🙂
Forsythia is another blooming bush that is verdant in the spring. My mom used to bring in sprigs from our bush on snowy spring days and ” force” the blooms in a vase of water.IMG_0167 It was her way to welcome spring although Pennsylvania spring weather was not always cooperative. My dad never planted anything before Memorial Day but we were in high gear on those following weekends. It cut into my riding routine a little bit, but I enjoyed the time with my dad and always managed to get my rides in somehow.
As we age, we tend to appreciate things a little more. I am enjoying the spring and enjoying the growth and scents of an awakening earth. It is great to do it from the seat of a bicycle. You can enjoy life and “stop and smell the roses.” Thanks for reading and enjoy the spring. IMG_0134