Seeking The Beauty, The Blessings

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A large succulent grows in a pot on our side deck, under the careful care of my Beautiful Mystery Companion. She often moves plants around, trying to find just the right combination of sunlight and shade. This season, she scored a goal by placing this succulent, called the Zulu Giant, or stapelia gigantia, in this spot. It has exploded in size and bloomed for the first time in the years she has cared for it. The bloom is exotic and somewhat creepy, as can be seen in the accompanying photo. That dark spot in the center of the bloom consists of the detritus of dead flies, which is how the bloom is pollinated. The bloom smells like a dead squirrel that got trapped under the deck for a week. Thus, the Zulu Giant is not a great candidate for indoor living, unless one is trying to ward off guests in these pandemic days. Good thing we now have a greenhouse.

Perhaps a carrion flower, as they’re called, is an apt emblem for 2020.


Autumn is teasing us this season, cool weather coming and going. The falling leaves skitter across the pavement under a summer-like breeze. The other day an intricately colored leaf landed on our house generator, as if waiting to be placed upon a white canvas. The leaf was painted in orange, red, a splash of yellow and tiny holes perforated it. Finding such beauty lifts my mood even as the news threatens to crush my spirit — politics, pandemics, wildfires and hurricanes. Look for the beauty, I tell myself. Look for the blessings.


When the pandemic came to town, I decided to stop going to CrossFit, as much as I loved it — in that love/hate way. I must do everything I can to protect my Beautiful Mystery Companion and myself. I bought enough exercise equipment to do workouts at home — a kettle bell, pair of dumbbells, 14-pound medicine ball, an abmat for sit-ups, jump rope and a pair of ring rows. Ring rows are made of composite material, about 10 inches in diameter, and attached to adjustable canvas straps. I attached them to the crossbeams of our gazebo. I run through about a half-dozen different CrossFit workouts weekly, some of which involve the ring rows. You hang beneath the ring rows, feet underneath them, body rigid, and arms straight, then pull yourself up to the ring rows, then back down. It’s a scaled version of a pullup.

While doing ring rows, I’m looking straight up into the sky, a canopy of blue framed by the tops of a quartet of trees. Over the months, I have watched as the view has changed, from budding branches to a full canopy of greenery, now to leaves falling as I go up and down. Soon, very soon, the leaves will change to brown, then back to bare branches. And unless it’s 30 degrees, I will be out there doing ring rows and admiring that beautiful sky, the birds flitting from one tree to another. Look for the beauty, the blessings.


One of the trees I watch during ring rows is having a bountiful acorn harvest. The squirrels remain busy grabbing them up to store for winter. At least that’s my theory. Maybe they just eat them on the spot, not worrying about the future. As I sit in the gazebo during late afternoons, listening to NPR and trying not to despair, acorns the size of a thimble bounce off its roof, sounding like a .22 rifle shot. The other day, as I was reading, with granddog Mollie lying beside me, an acorn smacked the shingle, causing both me and her to jump. She looked at me with serious concern. I reassured her that we were not under attack. At least not yet.

Distracted from reading by that acorn/rifle shot, I watched a pair of cardinals nibble on a cayenne pepper plant in a clay pot on the deck. The plant has about gone to seed, but has some dried peppers hanging from its spindly limbs. The cardinals, a male and female, apparently found the peppers tasty. Definitely East Texas cardinals with hardy gullets.

I will keep looking for the beauty, the blessings.

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