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One-Legged Magpies and Unruly Chamomile

Ever needed a mental break and yet the hardest part was actually stopping long enough to recognize that you need a break? Sitting in front of the computer, answering emails, checking Facebook, researching, writing, reading—and believing that these are the most important events in your life? Then lurking in the background of the great list of ‘things-to-do’ is the relentless call of weeds in the flower bed, annuals begging to be released from the over-fertilized, rootbound pots, and the nagging list of groceries to buy, food to prepare, and outdoor spaces to clean now that summer is here.

No small children for me at this stage of life but there is always an awareness that family meals and get-togethers are essential, especially on occasions where we get to tell our dads / sons / uncles / brothers / grandfathers how much we appreciate them. Which reminds me…

Happy Belated Father’s Day, Dad! That’s me with my three younger siblings. There were more kids to come!


My weekend is likely not much different than yours, just a slightly different to-do list. We all have them, especially young moms with babies and kids. Dads too.

This past weekend, I stopped all the writing, researching, thinking, marking, and reading to simply dig in the dirt, buy groceries, and make dinner for the family on Sunday. (Have to thank husband here for sharing the dinner load, even though technically it was ‘his’ day.) The weeds and annuals called to me silently but persuasively…and I am a better person for it.

One-Legged Magpies

Screenshot 2014-06-17 10.24.29While digging in the dirt, I was watching for my friend, the one-legged magpie. I met her last year and it seems she survived the coldest, snowiest winter that I can recall. She never wandered far from our yard. When I first met her, I felt terribly sad that she has to go through life on one leg. My family, on hearing me tell of my one-legged friend at Sunday dinner, had differing opinions about ANY magpie! I agree they can be destructive and downright mean at nesting time…dive-bombing anyone and anything in the vicinity of their babies. But family opinions aside, I admire her ability to go through life making the best of a rather limiting situation. (I could change my mind if she chooses to dive-bomb once the eggs hatch!)

How can I tell the magpie is a ‘her’? I can’t, but I do know that there are two magpies in the fir tree taking turns chasing the high-wire, tail-flicking squirrels away from their nest. Guess it’s just me personifying the female and my current state…wobbling some days just to stay perched on top of all that needs to be done!

She has learned how to hunker down on the windiest, most precarious days…leaning down and moving closer to the telephone/cable wires and rooftops that offer support beneath her. Even on the ground, she has learned to stay low and use the ground beneath her to lend support. You can tell it’s her when she is flying…tail, wings, and body making a million adjustments with the wind…very little that is elegant or smooth about her flight but fly she does. She gets to where she needs to go every time.

Hmmmm…gee…who does she remind me of? Ha! I am not alone — so many of us wobbling in the wind these days, men and women juggling a lot of responsibilities and time demands too. The world seems to be spinning faster and faster. We get to where we need to be despite all the millions of tiny adjustments that need to be made to get us there!

Then, like my one-legged friend, we learn to lean on support to hold us up. Friends, family, spiritual practice, digging in dirt, freeing plants from cramped quarters…all about nurturing and finding freedom, maybe?

So much in life can be simply another ‘to do’ on the laundry list of life that soon becomes hollow and meaningless. How does a ‘to do’ become a ‘love to do’? What changes? When does it change?

For me this weekend (again and again this life lesson), I made a conscious decision to not only work in the flowerbed but also ‘be’ in the flowerbed. All the ‘need to do’s’ were shoved aside and one weed at a time, one cramped rootbound pot at a time, I planted the annuals. There was only one thing to do, one thing at a time…nothing else. The enormous laundry list screaming in my head started to quiet.

I remember that lesson from early parenting days when I had to simply ‘be’ with a sick kid. There was only one thing to do…everything else could be set aside until the sickness passed…maybe an hour, maybe a day, and sometimes even a night or a week.

Family Dinner

Groceries bought, dinner made, family arrives, and you remember why all the effort and time it takes to get it all done. Simple…they are the ones you ‘dive bomb’ for, protect, laugh with, forgive, and love. This is our support, the rooftop beneath our one-legged attempts at life, the dirt beneath us that ‘grounds’ us, the high wire we ‘wobble’ on. Maybe for you it is friends rather than family, and if you are very fortunate, you get to have family who are your friends.

But we have each other…that’s what is most important and perhaps this is what will help us in the ‘busy-ness’ of life that moves at the speed of a Nano-thought through time and space on the internet.

So this week, remember to slow down, even when you think you can’t possibly spare a second to do something that feels like an indulgence. Slow down and enjoy the opportunity to free a plant, pull a weed, fuss over a slow-appearing perennial, watch a one-legged magpie, wash lettuce, set a table, peel a carrot, or vacuum a floor. (Notice I didn’t say wash and peel potatoes? I am still working on that little chore as spiritual practice…right up there with cleaning toilets. If I can master being in the present moment with those two tasks, I figure I will have reached enlightenment.)

Unruly Chamomile

Chamomile Donna GardenAs for unruly Chamomile? There will be more on her next week. In the world of homeopathy, this is the remedy Chamomilla. Have a look at the photo and tell me what you see. In medieval times, the herbalists spoke of the Doctrine of Signatures. How did one learn what this plant did or did not do in terms of health and healing? If the plant looked like an organ or had a fluid like that of the body, why did it suggest an affinity for that part of the human body? And why, for goodness sake, would I suggest that Chamomile is unruly?

(Hint: from 10 seeds planted last year, there are now chamomile plants EVERYWHERE!)

Is it possible that there is an element of unruliness in the homeopathic remedy Chamomilla? Stay tuned for next week’s post for a feature-length discussion of Chamomilla…one of the best kid’s remedies to have on hand that will put both mom and baby/child ‘in the present moment’ and allow you to just ‘be’ with a sick kid. Chances are good if your little one needs it, you will too!

See you next week!

Yours in health and healing,


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