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By Elizabeth W. Bennefeld

A summer or two ago, my husband and I took down the evergreen shrubs that had stood in front of our house for over twenty years. Nothing was left but short stumps and bare, packed soil. We weren't able to agree on what should replace the shrubs, and so we put off the decision and did nothing. After the unusually heavy spring rains, this year, plants started to emerge from the formerly bare ground, and we waited to see what they would be. Finally, one day, we walked out the front door to find a carpet of wild violets in bloom from one end of the house to the other. It was a glorious sight!

Individuality II by Tina Mammoser
"Individuality II", by Tina Mammoser

When I told of the experience, my friend George volunteered the information that where he is from, farming is different from the way it is in North Dakota, in that folks plant many types of roots and seeds all together, rather than separating the different kinds into fields or plots. The ground is dry and the growing season is variable, so produce isn't all ready for harvesting at once. And so, when heading out to find something to add to the evening meal, someone might say, "Let's go and see what God has given us," rather than "I'm going to get some squash from the garden."

It's really easy to get caught up in trying to preplan for every aspect and stage of life, or to worry when we don't. We can buy insurance to cover the loss if it rains on our outdoor wedding or the annual bazaar. There is insurance for long term care, if we live so long, and prepaid funeral and burial insurance if we don't. The time to start setting aside funds for the children's college expenses is when they are born, and the retirement account already should be generously endowed by age forty, if we plan to retire by age sixty-six. The lawn should be landscaped, and the strips of garden must be planned out and planted for minimum maintenance to fit the hectic pace of today's lifestyle.

I've decided that I am not a "low maintenance" person. That is, I cannot afford to cut back on my personal maintenance in order to dedicate more time to planning the perfect garden or shopping for the ideal outfits for various social occasions. Even reading the "best sellers" that people around me are reading, so that I can join in the discussions, comes with too high a price tag for upkeep, when what I really want to be doing is reading old history books or rereading the science fiction novels that are already on our bookshelves. I want--I need time to pet the puppies, take a walk with my husband, play the piano ... or just sit in the back yard for hours on end and think, if I want to. For me, this isn't the stuff of which two-week vacations are made. This is the essence of each day.

Maybe cutting down on the external maintenance to devote more time to the personal means taking risks, but the joy of the unexpected, like that riot of wild flowers springing up from ground that was too long barren, will have more room to break through to surprise and inspire me.

Bio: When Elizabeth W. Bennefeld and her husband Al are not storm spotting with other members of the Red River Radio Amateurs, Elizabeth works as a freelance writer and editor; Al is a computer technician turned programmer. Their household in Fargo, North Dakota, includes two cocker spaniels, Ladd and Rascal, a ham shack, and a basement full of books. Elizabeth's poetry and prose have appeared in literary and other publications since the late 1960s.

E-mail Elizabeth at wordquilts@att.net

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