“The dance does not start on the first beat of a bar.” (Wikipedia, on doing the cha-cha-cha)

Down the Garden Path:  my youngest daughter in my then-new St. Paul garden, many long years ago

Down the Garden Path: my youngest daughter in my then-new St. Paul garden, many long years ago

As I was lying in bed this morning thinking about what I should write today for this little blog of mine, the concept of two steps forward, one step back came to mind, perhaps because a FB friend posted something yesterday about one step forward, three steps back.  But really, that does not describe how I am feeling right now.  At the moment, there may not be quite as much forward momentum as I would like, but I am moving, and it feels good.  Sort of like dancing, forward, backward, cha-cha-cha.  And thus, the theme of this post was born.  I then decided I had best do a search and make sure my concept of the dance was correct before using it as a metaphor, and I found the line above on Wiki, unrelated to the forward/backward/sideways movement of the dance.  It struck a chord (pun maybe intended), reminding me that a dance can begin off the main beat, perhaps not cover a whole lot of new ground, and yet progress beautifully and joyfully.  So here I am, dancing the chacha.

As I have mentioned, the goals that resulted in me creating this blog have more to do with following through on my ideas and creative impulses rather than with starting to do a whole bunch of new things.  Taking cooking and photography to a new level, learning how to garden in a vastly different climate, and going back to other things that I love doing but haven’t been doing as much of late.  Such as reading.  I have to be honest here — although I have always been a voracious reader, I have not been reading a great deal in the past few years.  In Helena, we were always so busy with friends, outdoor pursuits, and remodeling our house (while getting our children through the last few, very busy, years of high school) that my reading time diminished considerably.  Right along with my eyesight, which had always been better than 20/20 until I hit 45.  Honestly, the changes in my eyesight hit me harder than I care to admit, and the inconvenience of needing to find glasses in order to sit down with a book became more of a barrier than made any kind of sense.  Over the years, I grew my collection of readers and salted them everywhere — a pair in each room (three in my office), one  in the car, another in my purse.  That helped, although I still get uselessly indignant about needing to use them.

After moving to Baltimore, there is no question that I have considerably more time to read.  We live in a rental house, so there are no home repairs/maintenance to occupy me, no new gardens to undertake (or old ones to maintain), and no friends to fill my time and keep me cooking for crowds.  And I have read more, but not really as much as I would like.  Thus, one of my goals is to read more (and hopefully find some friends here to discuss books with!).  I got a new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating, from my mother for Christmas (thanks, Mom!).  And I started reading it, but then felt guilty about a few unfinished books sitting by the bed collecting a bit of dust.  So I put it down, and picked up a lovely tome I had started some time ago called Down the Garden Path, by Beverley Nichols.  Written in the 1930’s, it is a fabulous (and very funny) story of the joys and challenges he experienced (and the fabulous characters he interacted with) bringing a garden to life.  I am not sure why I never finished it, since I most definitely was enjoying it.  Anyway, yesterday I picked that up and read chapters in between rounds of apathetic Christmas decoration removal.

As an aside, am I the only one who has terribly mixed feelings about putting Christmas away?  On the one hand, it’s nice to get rid of some of the clutter and busy-ness, but on the other hand, once everything’s down it’s just winter but not Christmas (which, as we all know from The Chronicles of Narnia, is a terrible state in which to live).  So I left a few strands of starry starry string lights on the mantle (and of course a wide assortment of sparky Christmas bows on the floor for Cecil’s continued enjoyment).  Which helps, even though things still look a bit stark to me.  But I digress.  Which really, I do a lot of, in both thinking and speaking (and now, I guess, writing).  My older brother commented at a family gathering last fall that he had sort of forgotten how quickly all of us can take a conversation from point A to point F, Z, and then L, never really finishing with point A.  That’s not how he put it (I think the phrase used might have referenced how we have a tendency to go into the weeds), but you get the point.

So, back to Down the Garden Path, I was immensely amused by the section that recommended a cocktail or two before heading to the nursery to select plants, since it would free up the spirit of creativity and dampen the potentially negative effects of applying logic and restraint to plant selection.  Since driving is involved in going to the nursery,  I don’t actually advise this, but I got his point.  And I certainly used to love wandering around my gardens with a glass of wine in hand, deciding where changes/additions were needed and planning the next phase (because there was always a next phase).  I also enjoy sitting by the fire with a glass of in hand wine on a deep, dark winter’s night studying newly arrived garden catalogs while dreaming of warmer weather to come.  So his reference to the association between cocktails and gardening made me laugh, and got me thinking back fondly to gardens past and ahead to gardens future.  After that delightful passage, however, the book devolved into a fairly misogynistic rant about women gardeners that I didn’t appreciate quite as much.  Thankfully, I am past that part now and I look forward to finishing the book today.

So, I have already been reading more (and loving it).  What in the world does any of this have to do with the cha cha?   I’m tackling at least one of my goals, reading more.  But I don’t just want to read about gardening more, I would like to somehow do more gardening, despite living in a rental house.  Having no real garden has been something of a gaping hole in my being this past year.  So last week I followed up on a long-term unrealized goal of taking master gardener classes.  And I found out yesterday that the class that starts at the end of the month (the only one offered in Baltimore City in 2014) closed registration in October, which means I must either wait a year or go outside my area to take a class.  On to Plan B, which I have yet to figure out.  Maybe doing some volunteer work at a local garden or the lovely Cylburn Arboretum.  Or finding other classes I could take to figure out how to garden in the tropical (well, from the perspective of a long-term Zone 4 gardener) climate I now live in.  Sadly, it seems that Baltimore does not have the extraordinary community education opportunities that I took for granted when I lived in St. Paul, so it is taking a bit of effort to track down the options that may (or may not) be out there.  But I am trying.  Cha-cha-cha.

I have also been doing massive amounts of research into DSLRs, and I am close to taking the plunge.  However, all the advice on buying your first DSLR camera strongly recommends going out and looking at the cameras, holding them in your hand, making sure the weight/heft/configuration will work for you.  Which makes good sense, and I was going to go out and do that today.  But I look out the window and see rain falling and seemingly immediately freezing into an ice sheet on the street.  And while I am not really afraid of driving under such conditions, I am afraid of all the locals who might be out there driving.  I mean, being real, the drivers here are the WORST and RUDEST drivers I have ever encountered anywhere.  Seriously.  Worse than New York, Boston, DC, Virginia.  And way, way worse than Minnesota or Montana drivers.  But maybe that’s a rant for another day.  My point is, add a layer of ice on the roads to the usual unsettling experience of driving in Baltimore, and staying home today sounds like a better plan.  So I think my DSLR outing (plus a trip to Target for laundry detergent) will have to wait.  Instead, I will bake bread.

I did start sorting through and editing years of pictures yesterday, printing a few favorites of friends and favorite places to put in frames.  I actually (embarrassingly) have an entire gallery wall hung in a hallway, where only two of six frames have our pictures in them.  The others are beautifully, artfully hung (OK, relatively pleasingly hung) with the pictures that came with them.  Oops.  Every time I sit down to print the pictures that will go in them, I become paralyzed by my enormous collection of pictures and am unable to choose.  But here’s the thing — and I keep having to re-teach myself this — I just need to start.  Print something.  Put them in the frames.  Wouldn’t that be better than staring at pictures of people I don’t know in places I have never been to?  After all, I can always change them later if I decide I would prefer something else.  It’s not rocket science.  And thus, I have started printing pictures and placing them in frames.  Cha-cha-cha.

Speaking of the cha cha reminds me of steps, and I am beyond delighted that my replacement fitbit charger finally came.  I lost my charger in November (and I am still not sure how, since it never left my office, unless it left by accidentally falling into the recycling bin) and soon thereafter ordered a new one, borrowing Mom’s when she was here for Thanksgiving to keep me going.  Sadly, no charger came, and the fitbit died completely on December 13.  I have no idea how many steps I have taken since then, but it’s undoubtedly fewer than I would have had if my fitbit had been keeping me on my toes.  I could choose to be unhappy and blame it on  fitbit for not sending me the charger in anything resembling a timely fashion, but really, it’s all on me.  Now I am just really looking forward to getting back on track — whether the steps are forward, backward, or side to side.

So, there’s my progress report.  It could be better, but it could also be a whole lot worse, and on the whole I am grateful and feeling energized.  After all, I love dancing!  How about you?  Forwards, backwards, side-to-side?