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roadside gardens, birdfeeders, wind chimes, i-pods…silence


Roadside Gardens, Birdfeeders, Wind Chimes, I-Pods…Silence

(Notes from No-Man’s Land #3: On the Road to Recovery)

Though I’ve never been much of a gardener, flower or vegetable, I appreciate their presence in my midst, whether from a distance or visiting friends with flower gardens glowing in color throughout the seasons, not to mention gifts from vegetable gardens–asparagus, beans, spinach, lettuce, green peppers, onions, strawberries, raspberries…and oh those sweet juicy red tomatoes.

But it’s the flowers I find especially appealing every year down my road, which I still can’t walk the distance I’m accustomed to…still too exhausted to reach my usual turn-around spot, heading back to the house.

I missed my old neighbor, Charley Root’s field of sweeping, deep-gold coreopsis waving hello in the morning breeze this year. Never saw one prairie rose. Or one yellow lady slipper. But the daisies are dancing as I walk by. The spring trillium, long gone, remembered in my short walks. The delicate Queen Anne’s Lace is beginning to make its presence, and mullein plants reaching up to bloom as well. The myriad of other small flowering plants/weeds which I could easily identify if I could only remember each name or looked them up in my wildflower books. I seem to prefer for now instead their nameless colorful shapes, their small moments of surprise, pleasure and harmony along my wild roadside . If only the town would stop mowing them down just as they reach perfection. I wish for more summer mornings of sweet scented clover—a wild fragrance most divine. And dearest to me, of all, a blossoming of fiery, petaled tongues I await each year: two thick patches of tiger lilies bursting in the late afternoon sun, flowers which I ‘protect’ with a sign: DO NOT CUT. (Always remembering my heated argument years ago with the town’s roadside maintenance man who hollered back at me from the tractor as he mowed them down: “Dem ain’t flowers! Dem is weeds!”)

I speak then for the presence and preservation of ubiquitous roadside gardens that give each year freely, in full measure, scattered bouquets of color, form, and scent, just waiting to be ‘taken in.’ No gardening required by the onlooker, only an occasional prayer for rain in a dry season. They are my true love. The natural, the always surprisingly predictable, which sustains me spring, summer and fall—even winter, with the skeletal sculpture of the milkweed plant, reaching above the dead fields, each plant graced with fresh, soft, white snow beckoning a moment of beauty and remembrance in so spectral a season. I speak too beyond the private pleasure of my own roadside garden. There are those times when I take to the car for the pure pleasure of ‘the hunt’– seeking certain swatches of wild flowers in bloom at those certain times when I know exactly where to find them on certain Door County back roads, which will remain in the privacy of my own watch.

Often these days, going or coming from the coop, I pause for a momentary rest in my old rocker on the deck. I contemplate the afternoon, the early evening …checking on all manner of natural things which give me pause, give me comfort–the sunlight, the trees, the wind…especially in these trying times of regaining good health and energy. I wait and watch for the birds at my feeder. Whatever their nature and movement, I’m glad to see them stopping by at my place. I delight in robins splashing in the bird bath. Wary woodpeckers checking in. The constant going and coming of chickadees. The plaintive call of mourning doves pecking at cracked corn on my gravel drive. Such pleasure and delight of feathered creatures, their airy freedom of wings which I sometimes follow to the tops of trees, or the overarching blue, where I might catch a solitary white gull, aglow in the sun, heading toward the lake down the road from me. And just yesterday, a sudden flock of goldfinches lighting up the yard, flashing their irresistible color as they descend upon my feeder like a blessing.

Sometimes these natural meditation moments on the deck are enhanced by wind chimes…a Zen call to silence impossible to describe except for that delicate sound in the company of soft breezes which take one to that solitary home again, every bare room and window open to peace, serenity, a sanctuary of nothingness. Nothing more, nothing else. Only now.

There are times too, when today’s technology might rear its ‘disturbing’ head, calling for a different form of meditation: an escape into music: classical, jazz, folk, opera. Mozart to Miles, Bach to Brubeck…pop, big bands…James Taylor, Maria Callas… I admit to bowing to the times, owning a magic i-pod with AM/FM (the daily pleasure of public radio), and presently more than five hundred pieces of music, only a touch away. I fix my small headphones. Go to ‘albums’ on the pod.. Hit ‘shuffle’. Close my eyes…say goodbye for now to the birds, the green trees, the blue skies, and let the music wash over me…carried away by beautiful voices, lyrics, instruments, rhythm…where time disappears.

And sometimes. late afternoons, I go into the house to rest, to try again to ‘nap.’ I climb the stairs to the upstairs, front bedroom–my old studio/office which I occupied for years when both kids slept in bunk beds in the same downstairs bedroom. A small room facing south, two small windows level with my desk, a funky little room I loved to write and paint in (actually a dormer) with all kinds of strange angled walls and filled with light.

I stretch out on comfortably on my back, arms behind my head, eyes focused lazily out both windows open wide to the wind, taking it all in…the tops of trees, blue sky, rolling clouds, bird song…everything out there in fervent conversation …maples in dappled sunlight talking to the birch, beech, oak, and ash, waving to one another, swaying in harmony, joyfully turning over their leaves to an under-light of glowing sun, flashing one way, then the other, tangling the stems of playful branches as stronger gusts of wind take them by surprise and carry them even higher to the heavens…the pines ponderously in place, stifled sentinels to the spectacle of the play of light and wind.

All this invites me into a silence, the language each season speaks, to further define itself from wood pecker chatter to howling winter wind…to the ease of slumber when a spring rain may patter on the roof…then a deeper slumber as I drift off to maybe Europe Bay, down the next road from me, where the gentle summer-blue waters of Lake Michigan lap the shore, ripple the sand in their old lullaby rhythm of back and forth, in and out, here and now, today and tomorrow… and tomorrow and tomorrow… –Norbert Blei


  1. lowell b komie

    Always beautiful Norb….these are to be cherished, I see the same flowers, but I can’t write about them. Leave for Amsterdam today, back July 21. …your pal…..Lowell

  2. MaryAnn Grzych

    I was there beside you taking it all in. It is beautiful. God bless.

  3. Mary Bosman

    Glad to hear you are quieting down, taking it all in, and being still Norb…..but I’m sorry it had to be this way. I wish you all the best thoughts, feelings and treasures of quietness.

  4. Jackie Langetieg

    Ah, Norb; I can see you every stretch of the way from the wild flowers to laying back on your bed with your arms stretched behind your head. Thank goodness for the ability to relax.

  5. David Dix

    Such writing should and has cost money.
    ‘….and tomorrow…….’

    Ah, will gladly pay tomorrow
    for a Bleiburger today

  6. Patty Williamson

    Thanks, Norb, for beautiful pictures in my mind. And fervent wishes for many tomorrows.

  7. Marty Robinson


    You are the right man to be ravished by nature, the right man to transform its overwhelming power and beauty into words that inspire our own memories of its grandeur.


  8. Dick Finch

    Yes,the flowers ….even the good smell of the sweet clover, yellow and now the white. Thank you for sharing your vision.

  9. GE Wamser

    As usual; Bravo! I think the most radical thing you can be today is…quiet…and contemplative. Next time you wax creative, write a prayer for all the birds…some of the hummingbirds, most of our loons and many more species that will head back to the gulf to winter, unaware of the dangers that await them.i was swimming with my loons last weekend, thay can live 25 years you know, and return to my lake year after year…we exchanged soft calls, me, with a tear in my eye.

  10. Jean Casey

    All of that beauty began in the Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago, “Another instance of a glorious partnership in the pas de deux between insects and flowering plants [dem weeds]” Just read this today, excepting the brackets) in “Reading the Rocks” by Marcia Bjornerud, chair of geology at Lawrence University.


    “I went to the woods because I wished to live delberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”


  12. Kris Thacher

    Sitting Meditation. Walking Meditation. Reading Meditation. Rock me on the water.

  13. Tim Stone

    The beauty of nature and you captured in beautiful words. Sorry Disney you do not stand a chance.

  14. Tom Amberg

    We’ll both walk the distance soon, maybe not this day but certainly in one of our ‘tomorrows.’ Take very good care of yourself my friend.


  15. Stephen from AZ

    I really enjoyed this…new fan of Norbert (since 2017) when I first discovered him!

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