From the garden...

How Does Your Garden Grow? (Volume 2)

After a long winter we are just now venturing out into our much neglected garden…  The greatest thing about it is that the garden grows in spite of us!  Each little spot of green is a moment of hope for the new season…

My mom has always loved her garden – I have great memories of her trucking in dirt and digging up holes – but I never knew the joy of the garden until Mr.Martini and I bought a house with a large yard and began to plant our own.  We have been at it for well over a decade already, and still somedays I look out and wonder when we will ever be close to filling up the space.  Patience, the garden whispers.

“A garden is a grand teacher.  It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” (Gertrude Jekyll)

Plant by plant the garden starts to grow into the light.  First there were the snowdrops…


…and then came the crocuses…


“First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus —
Crocus.” (Lilja Rogers)

Next came the daffodils…


…followed by flower after flower in a tumbling symphony of colour and light.

“Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.” (Geoffrey B. Charlesworth)






“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” (Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke)




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“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” (Anne Bradstreet)



“Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment.” (Ellis Peters)







…and gorgeous double cherry blossoms (hand grafted to wild cherry stock by Nonno – the garden whisperer…)


“April is a promise that May is bound to keep.” (Hal Borland)

…and my favourite (of course!)… the tulips:

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The way the dirt smells, the way the wind blows, the way the garden creatures begin their scrambling explorations of the  hidden garden places… all these things inspire me and remind me that the garden grows green and new each spring – and so can we.  (Patience!)

“Hope is a roving gypsy
With laughter on her tongue,
And the blue sky and sunshine
Alone, can keep her young;
And year by year she lingers
Under a budding tree…”
(Dora Read Goodale, “The Chorus,” in Country Life in America: A Magazine for the Home-maker, the Vacation-seeker, the Gardener, the Farmer, the Nature-teacher, the Naturalist, April 1902)

From the desk of...

Re: Lent…

Today is the final day of Lent – the last moment of quiet contemplation as we wait for the Easter season to begin.  Yesterday I wrote about the season of waiting and how that time is intended to be transformative, but sometimes knowing we are meant to transform doesn’t translate to the actual act of transformation.  What role do we need to play in our own growth and change? 


Some friends of mine spent their 40 days of lent posting daily photos for #LiveLent to represent a series of words/ideas.  I was inspired by the images over and over, but no picture was as transformative for me as the moment I watched Miss G. stand calmly in front of her entire school during a special assembly and heard her speak these words so eloquently:

“Today we know Lent as a season of sacrifice.  We see the ways we have turned away from the goodness in our lives and we focus on turning our mind and hearts back. We use the traditional pillars of Lent (prayer, fasting and almsgiving) to help us turn away from whatever has distracted us.  Giving up something or sacrificing something for Lent is really a form of fasting. We can deprive ourselves of some small pleasure or treat and offer that as a sacrifice. But Lent isn’t about senseless sacrifices; it’s about meaningful ones.”

Meaningful sacrifices.  What kind of sacrifice will be most meaningful for me? 


Two weeks later she spoke again at another school assembly.  This this time I didn’t get to hear her in person, but she brought her part home for us to hear.  In it is another seed to discover the meaning of “meaningful sacrifice”:

“Look at your heart.  Is it hard for you to give away something?  Do you sometimes like to keep everything to yourself?  Do you ever let something be the reason for bad feelings or bad words between you and someone else?  If you remember a time when something like this happened, remember how your heart felt.  Then, open it up to the good that wants to be there instead…”


Hearing simple wisdom spoken with such a young earnest voice makes it all the more meaningful.  Suddenly my own journey became clear.  I don’t struggle to be generous with things – sharing comes easily to me.  The thing that I tend to hold onto, though, is a feeling of frustration when I feel let down by others.  I hold myself to a very high standard, and I tend to do the same for everyone around me.  When people don’t live up to my expectations I have a hard time letting go.  For me, meaningful sacrifice in Lent is giving up the frustration that does no good for anyone.  It’s time to remember that feelings of frustration make a heavy heart; I can choose to open my frustrated heart up to patience and understanding instead…  Giving up frustration and negativity can only make room for something better.  Simply put (and one of my favourite quotes):

 “If you judge people you have no time to love them.”  (Mother Teresa)

I can’t imagine a world without it…  It’s time to relent.


From the library...

Patient, Quiet, Sleepy… (Waiting!)

The last few weeks have flown by with seemingly endless tasks to do while welcoming the new season… We have been busy at home and school preparing for Easter – each of us has travelled the Lenten road differently but we all share the same enthusiasm for the very near end in sight.

Yesterday was the last day of school before the Easter break and we spent the time focussing on the details of Holy Week with a variety of different activities/experiences for the children… 


As a Resource Teacher I don’t often plan or participate in large scale lessons so I was enthusiastic about the whole process. In the end I spent my day with the intermediate students to learn more about the very end of Lent… 


The last Saturday leading up to Easter is somehow the hardest day to comprehend. What do we do at the end of it all, when we’ve waited and waited for so very long? As I often do when trying to get my head around a new or difficult concept I looked to the wisdom in picture books and found all I needed. 


A few years ago I bought a beautiful set of books created by a talented author/illustrator team – I found in these gorgeously illustrated books the very simplest explanation… The magical secret of Lent (and life…) is the beauty to be found in waiting… 


Illustrating “waiting” for children is sometimes an insurmountable task… Waiting is more philosophy than reality and can be hard to take at any age. 


These books have captured beautifully the idea of waiting in nature…  A butterfly takes time to become itself. The process is slow, patient and challenging but the result is so very lovely…


An egg is an age old symbol of the season. How did it come to represent Easter?


In the quiet safety of its shell a yolk is transformed into a completely different creature…


First comes the waiting… Then the revelation!  The tiny bird breaks through the shell to discover the joy of life outside…


A seed rests all winter in dark and quiet, nourishing a fledgling baby plant until the spring calls it forth…


The spring has called us all to transform, to break free from our shell, to burst out of the earth, to break open our cocoon and live the life we have earned by all our patient waiting


One by one we count the minutes we have waited, we reflect on the work we have done…


We open our hearts and follow the call of Spring…


You can purchase all these books here, or learn more about the author and illustrator. They are so talented – we hope you enjoy their work as much as we have!


From the desk of...

Reluctant Spring…

After all these weeks of looking forward to spring it was a bit of an anti-climax when it finally arrived. Instead of the grand celebration I was anticipating, spring limped in under the thick grey rain clouds we associate with Vancouver winters…


For the first few days the new season was mostly unnoticeable. I found myself feeling foggy as well – the idea of a greeting the season with energy or enthusiasm was the furthest thing from my mind…IMG_5628

With the weather being obstinate, I couldn’t imagine even beginning all the projects on my list. The garden lingered in winter. The chores piled up. The rain continued to fall, and fall. And fall. Sigh.  What is it about the weather that is so easily reflected in the general mood? Why are the forces of nature so powerful over my own actions?


It’s as if the whole world is waiting, dormant, for a sign to begin the new season in earnest.

As a teacher I know that once we begin this final push there will be no rest until the summer.  Each week of the final school term is an ever increasing cycle of events, activities and obstacles to overcome.  As a parent I am extra aware of the carousel of birthday parties, performances and festivities to come, spinning faster and faster until we are just holding on until the end of the ride…

The idea of mounting the strength to begin is sometimes overwhelming! Maybe the wild world of weather has the right idea…

And so we wait.


We pause in the moment, not quite through with one season and not quite into the next, where past and future overlap and remind us to be completely present.  It’s a gift, of course.  The ability to be still, to rest and observe, is a skill that doesn’t always come naturally to use but is so abundant in nature!  IMG_8262

The birds and bugs and buds of spring have waited all through the winter, patiently, for their moment to begin their business of Spring.  They know not to rush the moment.  They wait.IMG_5630

“Deep in their roots all flowers keep the light.” (Theodore Roethke)


What strength do I have for the demands of Spring deep in my own roots and reserve?  What gifts do I need to discover in this moment of pause before beginning the tasks of the new season?  IMG_5632

I have discovered, over many many seasons, that the gifts I need for every task and challenge are most often present in the people all around me… just like the flowers waiting to grow in my sadly neglected garden, I am surrounded by a colourful collection of talented and gifted people who make my life so much more than I could on my own…IMG_5637

I have been gifted with a group of people who are exactly the ones I need to make the most of the seasons of my life.  Someone to encourage, someone to challenge, someone to celebrate, someone to love, someone to nurture, someone to grow with…  I am grateful for each friend and the strength you give me.  Your time and presence are great gifts!IMG_8277

And then… The clouds break. The wind blows in just breezily enough to blow them away and clear the cobwebs from my mind. The fresh air finally breaks through the fog that has been weighing me down and I see the signs of spring with their persistent optimism… I am revived.IMG_2308

From the desk of...

A Little Rain Must Fall…

I live in an often-rainy place. (It’s a good thing I love looking at clouds…)

For the last two weeks the weather report has consistently predicted rain – it was bound to be true eventually, right? So this morning we woke up to dark, grey, torrential, pouring rain.

“The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.”
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

One redeeming thing about living with the falling rain: the chance to jump in puddles!












Life’s best practice? Everything is about perspective… Lemons can be lemonade, detours are new adventures, rainstorms make places to play. I hope you find the fun in your own backyard today… Tomorrow is another day – rain or shine!



“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” (Louisa May Alcott)

From the desk of...

Looking at Clouds…

No matter how busy life gets there needs to be time for quiet, calm, reflective contemplation. One of my absolute favourite things about spring and summer weather is being outside with time to stare up at the great big blue sky.


Looking up at something so infinite and universal is a quick way to get perspective –


That universal perspective is the best way I know to have an honest look at my own self.


When I sit out in the evening garden and look up at the sky to wonder I get the feeling that the wind and light and clouds have made a message just for me…


Like looking at tea leaves in the bottom of a cup – looking at clouds can be a revelation.


What are the heavens telling me today?


(from “The Cloud” by Percy Bysshe Shelley…)
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.


I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again. (Shelley)




“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

(William Wordsworth, 1804)




What is the universe telling me today? Is there a message written in the sky for me to see?

“To live will be an awfully big adventure.” (J.M.Barrie, Peter Pan)

There is an awfully big adventure out there, under a great big sky speckled with a poetry of clouds… Did you get the message?

From the desk of...


So many things in life can be frustrating – I’ve listed my own peeves here before- but nothing in life combats frustrating like happiness.

As Oscar Wilde says, “With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy?” Happiness is the most powerful antidote to all that is negative and destructive in our world. Choose it. So many things may be frustrating, but so many more things are beautiful, inspiring, stimulating, encouraging… Happiness is powerful.

Earlier today I opened an email link to the Happiness Advantage (good work Mrs. W…) which served as reinforcement for what I already believe to be true: happiness is a choice. It feels good, it helps others, it heals the body and it wields power.

“With freedom, books, flowers and the moon…”

What is making you happy today?






Flowers opening up daily in my garden… Flowers popping up daily in the school hallways…







(Grade Two)


(Grade One)

Tiny birds in my garden…


And tiny birds in the school hallways too…







Choose happiness. Not every day will be perfect, but every day is a new day, with a new chance to create happiness for yourself and others…

“Tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it.” (Lucy Maud Montgomery)

What happiness can tomorrow bring for you? What happiness will you bring to others?

From the desk of...

Sun, Sun, Sun – Here It Comes…

This week in my world is busy. That is a big oversimplification, but to go into more detail makes me feel like I should be breathing in and out of a paper bag to avoid hyperventilating, so I’ll leave it at that. I try to remember that everyone has a busy life, and that no one wants to hear about my tribulations, so I work on not over sharing and then spiralling down into a vacuum of negativity and pity…
That’s not fun.

Instead, I breathe deeply, I look up, and then I look around for blessings to count. There are many. I have an amazing husband (amazing) who pitches in a lot even when our life isn’t off the charts. I have two loving, creative children who are fun to be with (most of the time)… And I have a job that I love to do, with the flexibility to spend time with the people I love because that is important too.

Today I had the incredible fortune of finding “the eye of the storm”.


I had a few hours to spend just with my son, despite the swirling madness that makes up our life this week. We had a great time learning some martial arts. Afterwards I visited his preschool for snack and sharing time – priceless.

Important to note – it is hot in Vancouver today. Really hot. Time for an ice cream treat out of the corner store freezer selection (I wish I had a photo of the options – not just fudgesicles and creamsicles anymore!) So many delicious looking choices, we took a long time deciding.

Then we were off to the local park, where we spent over an hour playing with every possible piece of equipment…




Weather – amazing. Flowers – amazing. Chance to be part of a special adventure with my little one – priceless.





It only takes a day of sun in this grey/cold/rainy west coast city to bring out the best in people. Suddenly we’re all smiling and nodding and holding the doors and saying “no, no – you first!” The warmth steaming up from the grass invades our chilly early spring hearts. The sparkle reflecting in daily life makes the regular (traffic, lineups, construction, very busy schedules) seem jubilant. We are all in this together. And (as my friend Rose used to say) it’s a beautiful thing.




On the last day of April – for poetry month…

Ramona Street on a Hot Summer (or Spring in Vancouver) Day

You can hear the whack
of a tennis ball against the plastic bat.
You can smell Ms. Lowry’s
honeysuckle bush
that grows along her fence.
You can lick an ice cold popsicle
from Petey’s ice-cream truck.
You can feel Joey’s sprinkler water
tingling on your skin.
There’s no place I’d rather be
than Ramona Street
on a hot summer day!
(Betsy Franco)

From the garden...

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I have always found gardens beautiful and restorative places to visit, but I didn’t know how much I would love gardening until I owned a little piece of land with no garden at all. Mr Martini and I bought our house together just eighteen days after our wedding in very late fall and began to work in the garden the following spring – the large empty space called out desperately for plants.


My mother has always been a gardener but I never had cause to pick up a shovel until I had a garden of my own. When faced with so much space and no garden at all, I threw myself into the challenge of learning something new.


Being a book person, I started at the library. My love of words made the discovery of Latin plant words thrilling. I repeated their names like little poems to myself as I wandered the aisles at garden centres from one end of my city to the other. I still say them like chanted prayers as I dig them into the dirt and wish them well as they grow. (If it wasn’t for Mr. Martini, my first born may very well have been named Strelitzia, but that’s a story for another day.)


I learned a lot from my mother and father-in-law. They are both gifted plant people. My mother-in-law has been known to transport seeds thousands of kilometres in a sock for safe keeping; my father-in-law is a master grafter, once growing five kinds of apples on just one tree. They found my ignorance about the plant world they know so well to be a little bit amusing, but my curiosity and enthusiasm have almost won them over, and they have been generous with both advice and with plants over the years, so that my little garden has flourished into a wild and overgrown refuge for people an animals too – just the way I like it.


Do not think this means I am good at gardening. Just gleeful about it. The best part is the sheer joy that digging, planting, weeding and pruning can bring. I have found myself filthy, scratched, sweating and exhausted but grinning from ear to ear! The satisfied happy feeling of making/tending a garden is a gift in my life, and I am happy to share it with my own children. Playing in the dirt is now enjoyed by three generations of our family, and we are all the better for it!



(Dicentra – Bleeding Hearts)

(Antirrhinum – Snap Dragons)

(Aquilegia – Columbine)

(Helleborus – Lenten Rose)

A trip to the green house is a whole day affair.  So many plants, so hard to choose! This is what we came home with today:

Early girl tomatoes, hot peppers, snap dragons, basil, strawberries, cosmos and heliotrope (because nothing smells better on a summer evening patio…). Pumpkins and zinnias were not ready – maybe next week. Now it’s time to excavate the shovels from their winter storage and dig in…


My children love to “help” in the garden. Making something grow is incredibly satisfying!

The words of the garden are a natural choice for poetic use… Thinking about poetry month – the Latin variety lends itself easily to an alphabet poem. Children love this style of poetry because the structure is concrete and simple to follow; the lines themselves can be as simple or complex as the writer would like.

Aquilegia, Buddleia, Cosmos, Dicentra, Echinops, Fritillaria, Geranium, Helianthemum, Impatiens, Jovibarba, Knautia, Lonicera, Muscari, Narcissus, Oenothera, Papaver, Quince, Ranunculus, Salvia, Trifolium, Utricularia, Veronica, Weigela, Xanthium, Yucca, Zinnia…

I hope your week is full of life and growth and inspiration. If nothing else works, get your hands dirty!

From the desk of...


Butterflies are a symbol of beauty, light and life. Seeing them fly through my garden in spring always lifts my spirits and renews my faith in the universe; I think, if the butterflies are still here then we must be doing something right…

I look at them with joy and wonder. Catching them at rest always feels slightly magical:

(We found this one in Woodland Park in Seattle…)

(…this one in Nonna Pina’s zinnia garden close to the Adriatic coast…)

(…and this one on the buddleia in my good friend’s backyard in northern Switzerland.)

Teachers love the symbolic life cycle of the butterfly too. It is a cornerstone used in primary classrooms to illustrate growth, development and change.

“Where have those flowers and butterflies all gone
That science may have staked the future on?
He seems to say the reason why so much
Should come to nothing must be fairly faced.”
~Robert Frost, “Pod of the Milkweed”

(Mustn’t forget it’s poetry month…)

“The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.” (attributed to George Carlin)

“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” (Richard Buckminster Fuller)

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” (unknown)

“Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time.” (Deborah Chaskin)

The journey to change is not easy. It is often not pretty. But each stage has a purpose and design… The time and transformation may not be known to us, but we must recognize the value of the process.

“Moss covered paths between scarlet peonies,
Pale jade mountains fill your rustic windows.
I envy you, drunk with flowers,
Butterflies swirling in your dreams.”
~Ch’ien Ch’i, translated by Kenneth Rexroth

“I’ve watched you now a full half-hour;
Self-poised upon that yellow flower
And, little Butterfly! Indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless! – not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!”
~William Wordsworth, “To a Butterfly”

You are called forth – joy awaits you – take flight!