Live in Each Season

“Live in each season as it passes.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Having lived through the wet of winter, the erratic fits of spring, and the scorching heat of summer, it is time to rejoice in the mosaic of fall.

I love the chaos of the fall garden.

All the little starts and shoots have grown tall and wild.

Their well-defined contours are now a tangle of color and cascading form.

They lay all over each other like summer camp friends clinging on – knowing a goodbye is ahead.

Like the joy in seeing my little foster charges grow up and go home, the fall garden is the culmination of winter dreams, spring plantings and summer labors.

And then it starts again.
I walked through this weekend and made notes about what worked and what failed…
which to divide and which to let stand and go to seed.

Maria brought gifts from the plant sale that found new homes adding to next year’s bounty.

And planning is underway for a wedding in the garden next September.

Fall is full of chores – all in good time. First – a breath and a moment to sit, soak it up, and take it all in. Living in the season.

If only for a season

At the rescue, people and dogs pass through our lives. Some we know only for an instant; others stay on for years. Each makes a special impression – often in often unforeseen ways.


I was touched and honored this week when a woman reached out to request a copy of a “going home” day photo I took earlier this year. I remember the day so clearly. The woman was 80; the dog she chose was also in her sunset years. I will never forget the look of sheer joy on the woman’s face and devotion on the dog’s. The connection was instant; captured in the click of a shutter.

While she and the dog are both in good health, she is making her final plans so her family will be spared that responsibility when the time comes. She would like the photo to be present at her parting because it “reflects so much of my life.” I cannot share the photo here as she wants to keep her plans secret for now. But I told her I would happily provide prints – which I hope she will not need for a very, very long time. I had no idea that our simple meeting would present such a gift to each of us.

In the garden, some blossoms last but a season –


others return year after year.


Annuals fill in when perennials take a much-deserved rest.


What would this Feather Grass be without Amaranthus?


Or the purple of Barberry without the compliment of Cosmos?


Or summer without Sunflowers and Dahlias…though there stay is always too short.


With new volunteers, you’re never sure if they here for a moment, or will return season after season.


They require the same amount of initial nurturing and care – an investment of time and effort, and a bit of a leap of faith – not knowing how long someone will stay. Yet, you never know what gifts they have to share.


I have tried on lots of different volunteering opportunities in my life. In fact – I tried on Homeward Bound years ago. It was the wrong time to be the right fit. I wasn’t even an annual; I lasted about as long as a cut flower. When I returned three years ago, I found my place. And it found me. I want to continue to be a welcoming “perennial” – finding room for, and appreciating, those that come in and out of our effort – even for a short while.

“Some people come into your life for a season, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. But only for a season.” ~ Ritu Ghatourey

Second winds

After weeks of scorching hot and dusty dry – we caught a weather break and had unseasonably mild temperatures for a bit. The garden got its second wind, and sent blooms skyward again.


Spectacular Sunflowers…


Dazzling Dahlias…




A second round of Delphinium…


And the long-awaited appearance of those elusive Naked Ladies.


Then – on Sunday – something truly amazing: clouds and a very light rain. You don’t realize how much you miss those drops until you live in California through three years of drought. It was short-lived, but spread a hush of gray over the garden.


From riot to quiet.


“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” ~ Benjamin Franklin (Lucky agrees!)


Even the dragonflies were smiling.


On a Wing and a Prayer


Small miracles surround us. Hummingbirds…


Baby Mourning Doves…


Honey bees…


and Love in a Mist (aptly named).


This collection of miracles flew in just a week ago on a wing (traveling from Taiwan – where it’s not so good to be a dog) and a prayer (of rescue and a forever home).


One – Mary – has already found her way there.


Abigail – another of the ten Reservoir Dogs rescued from a hoarding situation – has recovered from her ear surgery and also found her way home this weekend.


In a world that sometimes feels filled with bad news, these small miracles help to balance our corner of the universe.

Two seasons ago, all Maria had to do was plop a sunflower seed in the ground and it sprouted a stalk rising over our heads.


Last year was disappointing, and this year’s seeds and sprouts have either been swept away or served up to snails as appetizers (balancing out the snails’ universe, I guess). She is still putting her faith in another round of seedlings started at home; but she put her money on a few sunflowers from the nursery.


Sometimes, prayer just needs a little help.

“Grow flowers of gratitude in the soil of prayer.” ~ Terri Guillemets


Happy week, all.

November Notes From The Garden

Maria and some other Homeward Bound volunteers traveled to Tahoe today to join in the search for Murphy – a Golden on the run since a family camping trip in early October. So I was holding down the fort alone in the Memorial Garden today.

A large shipment of newly arrived commemorative bricks were lined up and ready to be installed.

The messages are so touching. It truly is a great way to honor our departed pups.

Maria’s sunflowers have begun a second showing. What a treat in November.

Meanwhile, the Dahlias are saying their farewells.

There are just a few blooms remaining,

and the emerging buds get tinier and tinier. What a beautiful show they gave us this summer and early fall. We’ll over-winter them carefully for next year.

The Mums, on the other hand, are in their glory. This one from Jody’s garden bed is especially pretty in pink with its sunny yellow faces.

Tomorrow, Ina will move the Rock Rose from the Tree Circle Garden.  With the tree getting larger, they don’t get enough sun to bloom successfully, and they are already growing too large for the spot. Ina thinks they will look beautiful in the California garden she is planning for the front section. Shhh…don’t tell her that they are not California natives!

It was pretty lonely in the garden today – so the dogs kept me company. Bones gave the Sunflowers his sniff of approval.

Hope – a really sweet girl and new arrival – paid a visit.

Cisco was showing off his much-improved coat…

While Goldie showed us that she has a few previously unknown tricks up her paw: like this adorable rollover.

It was bath day at Homeward Bound with a new grooming team in training. So much pampering and primping…

what better place for Bo-Bo to air-dry than in the garden?

And finally, Wedo came to say the words we can’t wait to hear: “Goodbye”. He went home today with his new family. We’ll miss you sweet boy!

Side note: Ina told me know that the beautiful Asters in the Cottage Garden are second generation cuttings from the old Sacramento City Cemetery. I visited there on Saturday to see the originals. The grounds are absolutely beautiful – maintained by more than 100 volunteers and a few Sheriff’s friends doing community service. Look for a post this week on the blog.

Thinking good thoughts for Murphy’s rescue. It was too quiet at the ranch today. Bring that girl home, and hurry back everyone!

When One Door Closes…

I thought that these sunflowers were the perfect metaphor for our Memorial Garden. Growing from one stalk, one head has faded, while another blooms. This is the cycle of quiet ends and new beginnings – sadness and joy – that we see so often at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell.

The Memorial Garden as a place to remember and celebrate the lives of our four-legged friends who brought us such joy, companionship and happiness.

Every dog lover knows the heartache of loss, and yet we risk it all over again – because the need is so great. So many pups in need of homes; so many homes in need of the unconditional love of pups.

“Dogs just wrap themselves around your heart in ways you never thought possible.” – HB

Often we hear people say that they can’t bear to adopt an older dog with the possibility of only a few years together. And yet, there on the organization’s Facebook page this week, was a post from a woman who said goodbye to her Golden – adopted at 10 and lived to 17. Seven wonderful years. Life has its own plans, and there are no guarantees. So worry less about the age and more about the connection and the difference that you make in each other’s lives. Hearts are like gardens – with endless capacity to be reborn. Never the same…

but equally beautiful.

Honest and Upright: Sunflowers

Those who follow this blog regularly know that Maria, one of the dedicated volunteers of our Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, has abandoned us for a few weeks to run around Eastern Europe. She forwarded this photo of Sunflowers grown in Bulgaria.

The sheer quantity is impressive and creates a stunning impression. I’m a bit biased, but I’m not sure they can compete with those growing in the Sunflower bed in Maria’s absence.

Is it the TLC they are receiving while she is gone? Hmmm…

This one looks like a Las Vegas showgirl,

and this one – lemon sherbet.

“Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock.”
~ Henry Ward Beecher

Sunflower Appreciation

So many people seemed to enjoy the post capturing the transformation of Ina’s Cottage Garden, I thought I would share some others with you periodically. Here’s a look at Maria’s Sunflower bed – from its messy start, to it’s mid-summer delight within the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

Inauspicious beginnings last Fall…

By February, it waits in anticipation.

Some April color, while the rains delay planting.

Then, they begin their march.

And before we know it…

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.”
~ Helen Keller

July’s towering giants…

Not even the Finches can keep ’em down!

My only question is this; when the sunflowers fade in the fall…

what does Maria have planned for winter? Hmmm….

Mid-Summer Update

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.” ~ Sam Keen

In the hot Sacramento months of July and August, the garden is best tended to in the early morning and early evening. I snuck out to the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden late yesterday afternoon and early evening to get some of our weekly heavy lifting done, knowing that Sunday would also be over 100 – and that Maria, my Sunday gardening partner, refuses to quit as long as there is something more to be done.

So today, with the weeds largely beaten back, the deep watering done, and the heat turned to ‘high’, we enjoyed a more relaxed pace in the garden.

Our newest volunteer, Pat returned this weekend (yeah!) and did an amazing job of dead-heading all of the roses along the fences. She claimed to be a novice at the task, but with a little instruction, that is no longer the case! This is a zen-like, but time-consuming job – so we are very grateful for the extra hands.

Pat is a dog-walker, soon-to-be-adopter.  She lost her own Golden a bit ago, and is now ready to open her heart to another.  Well almost.  She has a trip planned in the coming weeks, but after that, she’ll be on the hunt. In the meantime, she is afraid to look, for fear of falling in immediate love. We’ll keep her busy in the garden until the time is right!

I swear we have magic soil in this garden.  Things grow so quickly and brilliantly in these beds.  We found this gigantic Johnson grass weed hiding in the Daylilies. A week ago it was small enough that its blades were camouflaged.  A few days later, its height has given it up as it towers over the bed’s rightful occupants.

This sprouted in the Willow Garden since last weekend as well. I have no idea what it is, but the larger stalk is already a foot tall. It looks like an Amaryllis, but this is not the right time, or place for that…and two stalks? (Magic soil?) I’m sure that it will reveal its identity to us soon, but if you know, please advise!

The grapes have begun to ripen…

along with the apples and pears.

The birds are enjoying the seeds of the spent sunflowers in Maria’s bed, while new and amazing blooms still appear.

The Bee Balm is thriving…

the neighboring Coneflowers are the beneficiary…

and Jody’s garden is on its way to ‘full and tranquil.’

No Goldens visited us today. Too hot. They were happy to go out for their walks, jump in their pools, and take their wet bodies inside to the air conditioning! Can’t say as I blame them!

I laughed, however, as I watched Rob try to coax two new arrivals into posing for pictures. Imagine how strange and nervous these pups feel when they first arrive. They don’t know that picture-taking is just one of the steps on their road to a new forever home. Rob is one of the dedicated Homeward Bound team members that I see almost every weekend working with the dogs. He has a special “dog-whisperer” way with the ones who need the most help. The many volunteers like him make me proud to be a small part of this special place and mission.

Evening Meeting in the Garden

Ina, Maria and I called an evening meeting in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. Over delicious Turkey, Pesto and Tomato sandwiches (thanks, Ina!) we talked through future plans.

We had our first sighting of a Monarch butterfly, but it would not sit still long enough to be photo-captured. We certainly have created a haven for them, and we hope to see more in the coming weeks.

Surrounded by Robins, Quail, and Bunnies who kept their distance, it was nice to simply enjoy the fruits of our labor as the sun dropped in the sky…

when everything takes on a golden hue…

including my Jackson, who accompanied us tonight and enjoyed Maria’s Elfin Thyme!

I’m a little biased, but I think he looks as pretty as the flowers, don’t you?

The highlight of the evening was Ina’s confession that she added another plant to her Cottage Garden bed.  A talented gardener, she was concerned that the ideal sun and soil conditions were quickly creating monster successes. She issued strict warnings to us: “no more plants!” Ha! Busted.

There is always more work to do in a garden…

but tonight was more about fussing, photos, pups and friends.

A rare moment to soak up the sunset and enjoy all that has been created in the garden. Apparently, we are in good company.

What the Garden Attracts

You know the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden is getting better by the sheer volume of visitors we are getting now – two legged and four.

Vonnie and Randy were out early to tend to their Butterfly bed. Vonnie has a new rule which is my favorite: “Come out to do your garden, and work on two others as well.” After weeding and dead-heading their bed, they weeded the Tree Circles and part of Jody’s bed.

We have seen many white butterflies, but few of color or spectacular display. Bemoaning their absence, Vonnie and Randy installed two solar cousins along with the ornament that already graced the garden.

The additions apparently established a welcoming tone – attracting the real thing later in the day.

Pat joined us early as well. She is a dog-walker volunteer who took a shine to our project, and graciously offered to help out. After a walk-through, she graciously weeded Sue’s Grandma’s Garden bed.

Maria arrived mid-morning with a long to-do list. Top priority was leveling some of the settled stones, and planting more of the Elfin Thyme.

What awaited in her Sunflower bed was a grand surprise; a gigantic sunflower measuring a foot across!

A family was getting acquainted with Raffy as a possible adoption. I’ll need to update you later on the status, but they certainly looked good together!

Peggy and Steve came to work on their Iris Bed, installing a scarecrow, and a string of fun dog toys. We hope the scarecrow will send a message to the finches. If the dog toys disappear, I don’t think we’ll be able to blame the rabbits!

In keeping with Vonnie’s new rule, they pitched in on multiple projects; dead-heading the roses, pulling crab grass from the Willow Garden, more weeding of Jody’s bed, and help with the stones and thyme planting. Being a guy, clippers and trowels were not enough for Steve, who quickly wielded an ax on some troublesome roots. When we last left him, he was using the ax to weed. It’s a guy thing.

We had more four-legged visitors than I can remember or had a chance to write down. Mosh and Marie (read their story here)…

Judy with Cisco…

And these Golden beauties:

Trishkin was our last visitor. He is a Sanctuary dog – which means that due to his health issues, he will have a forever home at Homeward Bound. Such a sweetie.

It’s been a long time since we had so many hands at one time in the garden – not to mention paws. We got so much done, that I was actually able to spend time in the Perennial and Hummingbird beds for a change.

There is an old Spanish proverb which says: “More in a garden grows than what the gardener sows.” That was certainly true at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden today.

Thanks to everyone for pitched in or stopped by. It’s great to see you in the Gardens.