Rhonda Cagle

Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Pots, Plants, and Thoughts for My Daughter

In Uncategorized on May 23, 2014 at 4:37 am

It’s been a week full of milestones and memories. My daughter Megan graduated with her Masters degree and turned 21 – all in the same week. 

Sitting on my patio, reflecting on these moments, I found my fingers curling around a small pot that sits on my outdoor dining table. It’s a pot that has, frankly, seen better days. It’s garish – green paint peeling away from red terra cotta and Van Gogh-styled flowers circling its exterior. But my daughter made this pot for me many years ago and I would rather part with my right arm than with this pot.


In many ways, my daughter’s life is rooted in this pot. I’m writing about it in my latest column for the Arizona Republic. I hope you’ll read along. http://t.co/Uglcu43GnD

It’s the Little Things

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2013 at 7:22 pm

In my latest column for the Arizona Republic, I’m writing about the little things in life that make a big difference. Flowers, football games, and friends make the list.


Read more and join in the conversation. http://www.azcentral.com/community/swvalley/articles/20131021cagle-little-bits-and-pieces-form-big-picture-of-life.html?nclick_check=1

What’s Growing In the Garden?

In Uncategorized on October 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Okra and eggplant, melons and corn are only some of the crops grown in the Avondale community garden. Friendships and a connection with the local community also take root and flourish in this communal space.


You can read more about it in my latest column for the Arizona Republic. http://www.azcentral.com/community/swvalley/articles/20121004cagle-avondale-community-garden.html#protected


Pots, Plants, and Other Thoughts for My Daughter

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Sitting outside under the stars on an early March evening is one of the benefits of living in the desert. In July, when other parts of the country are reveling in fire flies and 4th of July sparklers and we are gasping for a breeze in 100+ degree temperatures at 10:30 PM, I will not feel such generosity of spirit. But for tonight, the air is balmy and desert skies are dreamy under the light of Venus and a myriad of other heavenly hosts.

With my feet propped up on an ottoman, my gaze moves from Venus downward, toward a pot of newly planted marigolds. The wonder of unfurling feathery gold petals, the promise of tightly held buds, and lacy green leaves contrasts sharply against the worn pot that contains this slip of life. Frankly, the pot has seen better days. But I would rather part with my right arm than this beat up old pot.

The pot is garish; green paint chipping away from red terra cotta. Red and pink splotches form Van Gogh-styled flowers with yellow dots forming their centers. The paint is peeling, water and seasons of searing summer heat and winter’s freezing cold wearing through its carnival exterior. It is something only a mother can love.

My daughter painted this pot for me on an early spring afternoon more than 10 years ago. She was not quite 8-years-old. Before her nearly life-ending stay at Phoenix Children’s Hospital when a piece of steak ruptured her esophagus, causing 15 days in ICU and a less-than-2-percent survival rate. Before my divorce and re-marriage to Dennis. Before his sudden death due to cancer 3 years later. Before the housing market collapsed and I lost the home we had shared. Before I started over by purchasing and remodeling a foreclosed home in the West Valley. Before my marriage to Lorenzo. Before all the moments that seem both a breath away and lifetime ago.

In more ways than you can know, Megan, this pot bridges the span between the life before and the life that now exists. I remember your little fingers working diligently to create beauty only seen through the eyes of a little girl and her mom. I remember the sparkle in your eyes, the smile on your face, when you gave me the gift of your heart contained in the brushstrokes of this masterpiece. I remember the pride that shone in your eyes when I took it home and planted it with summer vincas. I remember all the seasons that came after, when I replaced old flowers with new ones, on new patios in new homes – creating new beauty and new memories – with you and your handcrafted pot at the center of each new space.

Tonight, I sit on the patio that will likely be the last one you list as your childhood home. Your pot is next to me, holding another round of blooms for yet another season of life. Like the flowers I have nurtured, you have blossomed. You are beautiful, vibrant, full of promise and potential. I show you off every chance I get, the most prized and cherished of all my cultivations. You have already weathered more seasons than most can – or will – endure. Those storms have created strong stock. You will bloom, not because of where you’re planted, but in spite of it. And you will bring beauty, elegance, and fragrance into the lives of all you grace.

In every sense of the word, you are being transplanted into a bigger pot – a larger world – before my eyes. Your roots are spreading, reaching, anchoring. I can only imagine the beauty and shelter you will offer the generations to come. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But I suppose that’s why the little pot you gave me all those years ago is more precious to me than ever before. I can still hold it in my hands – still trace the brushstrokes your fingers made that early spring day. In your pot, I can still nurture tiny blossoms of beauty while watching your own take root in a new vessel you’re creating just for you. It’s a masterpiece your mother loves.

Over the Back Fence

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Fall in the sunny Sonoran Desert means the flames of Hades are receding as God decides Arizona is not the prime location for Hell after all.  Sunburnt folks like me, parched and scorched from a summer spent at a level of Dante’s Inferno known only to desert dwellers, begin to inhabit outdoor spaces again. We garden. We take walks. We dine al fresco. And we reacquaint ourselves with our neighbors.

Located in a typical west Valley suburban neighborhood, my home backs to a greenbelt and walking path. Throughout the day, my neighbors pass by. Being a gardener, my yard causes people to slow down and take in the beauty of lavender, pansies, petunias, vines of every color, and trees now turning glorious shades of red and gold. I love seeing the smiles that come over their faces as they slow down or even stop their jogging, pausing to take in the beauty of God’s creation.

Some of these people have become staples in my garden. One woman, a work-from-home insurance broker, walks every morning with her dog. Her determined stride slows as she peers over the back fence to see if I’m out enjoying my morning cup of coffee. Spying me on the back patio, she smiles and stops to speak, her cheerful voice evidencing the fact that she is clearly a morning person. The fact that I am not is evident from my disheveled hair and lack of makeup. Still, it does not keep me from getting up and walking over to the back fence to visit.

Our initial “good mornings” have turned into discussions about snippets of life – living as empty nesters, how she gets her dog to behave so well as mine bark and leap manically at the back fence, the perfect crock-pot meal for a cool fall evening, and how the economy is affecting our respective sole-proprietor businesses. And always, there are discussions about my garden – how my winter grass is coming in, what herbs I’ve planted this season, how my tomatoes are coming on, whether or not I’ll be putting out poinsettias for Christmas.  Sometimes she asks advice; others she just comments on which color combinations she likes the best. The other day, she mentioned how she looks forward to walking by my back fence, stopping for a bit of seasonal color and conversation.

When I first bought my home, I planted vines along the back wall, hoping they would screen out the walking path and those who pass by each day. I’m glad they haven’t. Over the back fence, my neighbors and I enjoy my garden – and the friendships it cultivates.

The Golden Hour

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Photographers and artists call it the golden hour – those brief moments when sunlight and scenery come together, revealing a richness and depth to creation that is seldom visible. This “golden hour” is gracing my garden as it comes back to life after a rather cold winter.

It’s spring and my garden expresses its pleasure in a mist of new green that now adorns the branches of my trees. Like slender ladies showing off a new dress, my trees sway in the lavender-scented breezes that perfume my garden, their sweet new leaves swirling like lace as they dance beneath a benevolent sun. Flowers luxuriate in the lushness of warm, damp soil, unfurling brilliantly hued petals in glorious, extravagant abandon with no thought to the coming heat of summer.

Perhaps it’s the awakening of my garden that gifts me with a momentary “golden hour” perspective of life’s seasons. In between my endless client projects and the onslaught of deadlines, I return again and again to my garden and the seasons of life it reveals.

Each has its own beauty, its own lesson to teach. I would do well to remember this; to fully immerse myself into each moment of every season – and then let it go; like letting a field go fallow so it can mend itself and regenerate health and renewed life.

But I don’t. Too often I find myself fearing new seasons like I do fallowness. I cling to what I already know and understand how to tend, not trusting that the next season will reveal its own beauty in its own time, teaching me what I need to know in the process. What if nothing new grows? Can I survive the storms? Will I know how to tend what emerges? Can I live with empty fields for a time, trusting that beauty will grow from barrenness?

Most of the time, optimism is lost in these tall weeds. But, at least for this moment in my life, it’s the golden hour. And like the green mist in my garden that is turning barren sticks into lacy branches, I’m watching as new life emerges from a fallow field after a long and bitter winter. I’m not yet sure how to cultivate what’s growing or what the harvest will be, but it’s nice seeing green again.


The Art of Sipping

In Uncategorized on March 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

There is an irresistible draw to the invitation found in a deeply shaded patio and a glass of wine. On a warm spring afternoon, the combination is almost impossible for me to pass up. Unlike a glass of iced tea or lemon water which can be quickly gulped before going back to whatever task is at hand, a glass of wine must be sipped slowly, it’s complexities and subtleties demanding me to sit down and put my feet up in order to truly experience the gift of the vine and the skill of the vintner.

Just as there is an art to making wine, there is an art to sipping it. A good wine requires time – time to season, time to ferment, time to age. A good wine requires that you let it alone and let it be. At this stage of the winemaking process, there is no value in “doing,” only “being.” There are no shortcuts to crafting a good wine. And there are no shortcuts to truly enjoying the essence of the vine.

Although I appreciate the textures and flavors that comprise a good wine, it is the gift of time that makes an afternoon glass of wine truly valuable. Savoring a glass of good wine means I have to stop doing and simply be. I get to be still. In the stillness, the silence becomes filled with wisdom and beauty that is fragile and easily trampled in the frenetic pace of daily life.

Breezes bring scents of growing things to my attention. Smelling the sweetness of honeyed alyssum and lavender and the damp richness of soil warmed by the sun, I’m reminded to look for tender shoots of what might be growing in my own life and the lives of those around me. Sipping allows for contemplation and I remember the times when I’ve weeded with vigor, only to discover I’ve pulled out tiny tendrils of flowers that have seeded in the shelter of their elder specimens. It’s a good lesson in not judging too quickly and simply allowing things to germinate and grow for a season to see what is working its way out of life’s soil.

Sipping a while longer lets me see my surroundings with new perspective. The art of sipping holds a clearer vision of what presently surrounds me. It also offers time to envision the possibilities of what can be. This kind of unhurried observation gives insights into the seasons and rhythms of life. The dead, dried leaves of last year’s shade line the same branch that holds the tender sprigs of promise of respite from the coming summer’s heat. Eventually, the new growth will overtake the tree, but for a season, it is proof that death and life are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Fodder for continued thought on what this means in my own life, post-Dennis.

Swirling the last of the wine in my glass, I realize I’ve spent the last little while listening – to myself, to God, and to His creation. Sipping allows me to hear my soul’s breathing – the exhale of my hurts and fears, the inhale of heaven’s hope and healing. It lets me hear God; not in some big booming voice sort of way, but in the quiet insistence of a new idea infusing my brain with fresh creativity or the irrational reassurance that somehow, someway I will survive and find myself safely on the other side of circumstances that would have killed most people. And in the midst of my soul’s breathing is the sound of God’s creation, the steady heartbeat that reminds me that in spite of death and pain and uncertainty, life still holds moments of beauty, moments to be savored.

Heavenly Day

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2010 at 1:12 am

There is something absolutely lovely about weekends. They act as an emotional pumice, polishing away the rough, calloused places caused by the wear and tear of the week. Fridays usually find me crabby and short-tempered but by Sunday, I am soft and smooth and once again presentable for public display.

It’s not that I don’t have moments of quiet during the week, but they are few and far between. As the chaos and deadlines of the week eat away at my days and even nights, I find my resources growing shorter and my patience thinner. By Friday, Jesus and I are both ready to drink gin straight from the bottle and I find myself counting down the hours until I pick Megan up from school and retreat to the serenity and solitude of my home and garden.

Saturday mornings are nothing short of holy and create a sanctuary that offers life-giving resuscitation to my soul. Seriously. My Saturday mornings are sacred. I give them up only for my Kitchen on the Street volunteer work – and even then not weekly.

On days like today, I can slow down the pace of life. I can listen to my soul breathe. And I can see God in ways that are simply unavailable during the week. From a theological perspective, I’m well aware that God is constantly moving and speaking all around me, but the phone ringing with clients on the other end of the line, the deadlines looming, and the noise of weekday life often drowns out His voice and movement. Isaiah wrote that we know God in stillness and quietness. And the church fathers, especially the desert fathers, gained their divine revelation, in part, through their solitary existence. Sadly, those opportunities are too often lacking in my workday week. Which is why weekends are precious to me.

Today began as most Saturdays do with me making a large cup of tea and heading for the hot tub. As I soaked and sipped, I noticed that my ornamental pear tree is blossoming. The sun peeking over my back wall backlit the tree’s blossoms, causing them to glow a translucent white. It was magical. I watched, mesmerized, as the breeze ruffled the flowers, causing them to sway. It evoked an old-fashioned comfort that reminded me of lacy white curtains fluttering in the windows of a white clapboard farmhouse. I literally felt my soul stretch, luxuriating in the simple pleasure of sun, water, flowers, and sky.

As I soaked, I was able to ruminate on the events of the week, writing projects I’m working on, and a hodge-podge smattering of life. My thoughts drifted lazily from one subject to the next. I laughed out loud as I realized their meanderings resembled the zig-zag pattern of a near-by bee that was bumbling between my geraniums, lobelia, and petunias, then back again. The wind chimes sang and swayed in the breeze, sounding just like church bells from an ancient cathedral. I smiled, realizing once again why Dennis had loved them so much.

The day continued its reverie of simple pleasures. I did laundry, washing my sheets and anticipating the comfort of settling into a lavender-scented bed. I made brunch, sautéing onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach before folding them into fluffy scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese. I enjoyed my meal in the courtyard and read the paper cover to cover, noting how all the small stories that don’t make CNN add such local interest and color to my world.

As I worked in the garden this afternoon, I felt my soul working on the interior spaces of my being. Pruning my rose bushes I trimmed slowly, trying to see the ideal shape of each bush emerging from carefully placed cuts. With each snip of my shears I realized I was mentally preparing for the coming Lenten season. I found myself asking God what areas of my life need to be cut away, trusting Him to work carefully and bring about the ideal shape of my soul. By the time I was done fertilizing and watering all of my flowers, I realized my own soul had been fed.

Tomorrow will bring church – or not. I haven’t decided yet. If it does, it will be an early morning filled with hustle and bustle to get out the door and into the pew on time. There will be no hot tub, no hot tea sipped from the comfort of perfectly heated water while steam rises up like incense toward heaven. There will be no opportunity for reflection… contemplation… peace.  But today is heavenly. It’s the weekend; and I’m grateful.

Originally written January 31, 2009

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