IMG_0509This is a single tomato plant. Seriously. I call her Big Bertha. The postman asks me, “What do you give that thing—steroids?” I beam like a proud mama. He shakes his head as he sidesteps the lunging vines so he can put my mail in the box.  I have to hack her back every two days to keep from snaring him each time he walks by. What can I say? It’s happy—loving its digs. Sometimes, if I don’t pick for a few days, it looks like a Christmas bush with little yellow ornaments.

I like to sit quietly outside in the cool, early mornings with my coffee, listening to baroque music playing softly through my living room window, taking the pulse of all the plants. The birds have returned from wherever they go on holiday. They are raucous and swarm my bird feeder. Sometimes their chatter songs are deafening, like they all have to talk at once—glad to be home—catching up on all the news.

I love my little garden. It was barren and edgy when I moved to Olympia a year ago to be closer to my family, but now it is voluptuous, and the energy in the yard is juicy and “welcoming” as my grandson would say. It’s a tiny plot, two newly planted trees and a little strip out in front—a big change from the farm in my past or the massive grounds of a retreat center where I lived and worked as the landscaper among other jobs. This wee piece of planted earth suits me perfectly. It’s sweet and I can easily relate to it, giving each plant my fussy and complete attention. Before, I always felt like I had hundreds of children to care for and couldn’t do any one of them justice. It was stressful and I would fret and wring my hands, watching the weeds overpower the fragile plants and suffocate them to death. I felt like a wretched and neglectful mother. I do better with this smaller botanical family these days.

I spent two hours on the phone last night with one of my besties, Renee. We spoke of the quietude and simplicity in our lives now, and the pleasures of little gardens to putter in. We reminisced about the many years spent living and volunteering at the retreat center. Truth be told… we were flat out dynamos, power women. Looking back now, I wonder… how did we manage all that work? Where did that mighty energy go?

Life is different now. More being, less doing. Renee has been in an uninvited, but nonetheless, committed relationship with Stage IV cancer for the last nine months! Talk about a perspective shifter!  Clearly, no time for lingering bullshit. No time for what’s not true. Authenticity became the trump card. Cutting to the chase and paying attention to what’s really important has become her true north. Impermanence is no longer just a concept. There is a sense of freedom and lightness radiating from her bones. She was always wise; she is even more so now. You want to be in her presence, want to stand close to her, hoping some of it rubs off.

I was with her in the beginning of this journey and I will be there in the end. In the meantime, we talk almost daily about simple things, about tomatoes and the joys of grandchildren and we laugh and laugh, appreciating the ridiculous until we have collapsed in a heap, gasping for air.



  1. I really enjoy your posts Candace and feel there is some good advice there. My heart and prayers go out to Renee. I learned so many cooking tricks from her, such as: how to cook kale, how to organize a large kitchen and cook for a larger group of people. Love in the dharma to both of you, Laura

  2. Love you both! I’m so happy to hear about the flourishing life all around you. As my path unfold I find myself walking the line between life and death with others and always appreciate such a vivid and palpable appreciation of life.

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