Living the Sweet Life: I am Certifiably “Sweet!”

By Alisa Murray Nationally recognized portrait artist and award-winning columnist.

Hey Sweet Lifers! I just got clocked by a hornet in my armpit in the sweet life garden! I know, what a way to intro my column this month, but keep reading, and it will make sense and perhaps even make you smile. I am constantly being reminded of the fact that at some point my garden became a home for others, and I am only a keeper of it. While my creatures are somewhat dependent upon my services in tending to and keeping things watered and alive, they are very, well let’s just say, territorial about it being theirs. Hence this encounter of the ouchy kind as I was merely walking through my cuco-melons and taking pictures.

I have come to be quite intense on growing things and have gone from a mere few beds of veggies and herbs  (be warned sweet lifers, that is how it always starts) to growing cutting flowers and finally apothecary for home remedies. Over the past few years, I have gone from four beds to 27, and the idea of tossing a few hundred seeds has been met with a very reasonable decision on my part to not see why not to throw and sow thousands instead. Fourteen thousand comos, five thousand hollyhocks and eight thousand zinnias to be exact. No harm done really! No harm whatsoever.

In the spring things did not look like much, and when asked I would proudly proclaim all that I had done to prepare for my butterflies, bees and yes, unfortunately they are God’s creatures too . . . the hornets. They would sit by the pool and stare out at the compost and nod their heads. You see, these days if you come for a visit, I am going to gravitate to such topics. I just can’t seem to help myself. As the months turned warmer, or should I say blazing, friends began to see the sea begin to sprout and one said to me, “Hey, Auntie A, you do realize what you have here don’t you? You have created a sanctuary!” That made me do a little extra thinking. Was it even possible that some sort of a thing like that existed? Well,  I did some research and it actually does!

The National WildLife Federation has something called a “Certified WildLife Habitat” where gardeners from all over the country who have done their part to be stewards (I am getting used to this new found title) are certified as having their properties “recognized for their commitment to sustainably provide essential elements of wildlife habitat: food, water, cover and places to raise young.” Guess what? I qualified! Whoop, or as Jim, says BooYah! I was overjoyed to get this designation, and of course, a groovy plaque to place smack dab in the center of it all . . . my dahlia garden!

So now as the children come to gather in the flowers for portraits and pick veggies to take home, I take them around to the plaque and ask them to read it out loud to me while I gaze about watching the butterflies pop from flower to flower, and the bees wiggle into the lavender, mint and anise buds. Their little eyes get so excited to learn they are standing in a sanctuary created for and providing resources for many of God’s creatures. I also have to remind them that in the creating of this “sweet” space, we also have invited some fuzzy worms that we should not touch and yes, those hornets that despite a ginger walk through might decide to turn tail and slam you with their sting. Which teaches yet the biggest lesson we all cam learn in life, which is to try to love each other despite our dispositions and to forgive those that unknowingly do things that are simply not very “sweet!”

Take Care of YOU and Stay “Sweet!”