Thursday, May 7, 2009


Is there anything more beautiful than a weeping willow just beginning to leaf out? The baby willow leaves are so much lighter than they will be later in the season. (I'm reminded of the Lipton Tea commercial where the Chinese man talks about the "baby tea leaves").

They're such a light green, in fact, that they border on yellow. With just the slightest hint of a breeze, hundreds of airy chartreuse fronds all sway in unison and the sight could not be any more soul satisfying.

The forsythia are also in bloom here now. What a beautiful combination, the light green of the weeping willow and the yellow of the forsythia.

Tulips are finally in bloom here as well. I wonder, do Bismarck residents prefer red tulips over any other color, or do red tulips just bloom first? It is a delight to drive down any street in town and finally see color - even the yellow of dandelions. I saw my first ones yesterday.

"Make do, wear it out,
Use it up, or go without"
- Old Adage
I mentioned that the sight of new willow leaves is soul satisfying. I am trying to satisfy my soul without spending any money. Is anyone out there in this economy in the same boat as I am - trying to make do with less and less all the time - and trying to enjoy the process (or at least trying to feel virtuous about it)?
This is not exactly a new thing for us. Vacations, new cars, a boat, even much-needed home repairs have not been in our budget for a long time. I can't remember the last time I traveled out of town. We go out for dinner about once a year, usually on a gift card.
I haven't been to a movie since Christmas, and that was only because Kristen was home. I haven't rented or purchased a DVD in forever.
Within the past six months, I have given up my Netflix subscription and quit buying magazines (not even "Somerset Studio" or "Victoria"). I don't buy new books anymore - Barnes & Noble is only for browsing, not buying. My books come from thrift shops, rummage sales and (there are many available for a penny plus shipping). No, I won't quit buying books!
I never, ever shop recreationally anymore. I have put off buying sheets and towels and they are wearing out. I bring my lunch to work. I have never been one to buy a Starbucks coffee every morning.
For years I bought pretty much whatever I wanted at the grocery store, never checking prices. Now I bring a calculator and pinch every penny. For years I bought my clothes at Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target and T. J. Maxx. Now I've gone a step further and only buy them at thrift shops. For over 20 years I have bought my shoes at K-Mart and Payless.
Just recently, I have been doing without cable TV. I am doing fairly well, but I am Lost without the antics of Kate, Jack and Sawyer on "Lost." I haven't gotten my weekly shot of "Gray's Anatomy" and I can't boo Simon Cowell on "American Idol". I can receive CBS - with good sound but lousy picture - so I do get the national and local news plus a few dramas ("Criminal Minds" - yeah!)
In the past years I have gone from spending hundreds of dollars a year on hanging baskets and bedding plants to merely picking up a few for my deck. This year, I won't even be doing that. It has been many years since we have watered our lawn in the summer.
I no longer have Internet at home, but I am not weaning myself off that as easily as I did cable TV. I have to go to the library every day, if only to check my e-mail by putting a quarter in the slot in the "pay for use" computers there. I'm hoping that this won't be a permanent condition, but if it is I will adjust. (I still have Microsoft Word, so I can write posts at home and then publish them when I can access the Internet.)
Instead of juice, I have been buying Kool-Aid packets. My next thing to give up will probably be Coke. That will be very, very difficult.
But, on the bright side, I have free music at my fingertips, thanks to the radio and my CDs.
My library card is free. Dan has even been asking me to check out books for him. (He has never had a Bismarck Library card, even though we have lived here for 28 years!) I am reading more than I have in a long, long time, finishing a book about every two days. And as the days get longer and longer, I will be reading even more.
The whole of nature is free, and I still have my health, mobility, and all my five senses to appreciate this burgeoning spring: Hearing, to capture the stirring trill of the meadowlark. Scent, to sniff the fresh air and the newly-cut grass. Touch, for the silky down of a prairie crocus (anemone pusillatis). Taste, for a sweet drop of honeysuckle. Sight, for the first flowers now in bloom, and for all the daffodils, lilies of the valley, spirea, iris, lilacs and crabapple blossoms to come.
There will be no charge to watch the Band Day parade on Friday evening, or to see my niece graduate from high school. There's no charge to sit on a park bench and watch the world go by. The sight of baby animals at Dakota Zoo can be had at a nominal price.
Driving down to the river will use up about a buck's worth of gas at most. Sitting on the deck of an evening and watching Gracie careen around the yard will not only be free, it'll be priceless (though I will sorely miss seeing Penny waiting to expertly catch a pop fly (her ball).
The Montana-Dakota Utilities bill will go way down (and MDU has already purchased its natural gas for next winter - at a much lower price than this past year)!
It will be a soul-satisfying spring - and summer - indeed. As my blogging friend Lila says, "Joy doesn't depend on income."


Anonymous said...

You are so positive, enjoy the spring, and I hope your fortunes improve soon x

Anonymous said...

You are so right. Joy is free. I have always lived a simple life. I would much rather be home than out traveling about. I love free entertainment like lectures at the library, book clubs, concerts, and etc. There is nothing like packing a lunch and going to the river to watch the boats. There are so many things to do that cost nothing. I've never been one to feel I had to have something because everyone else did.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I agree - things are much tougher. We've cut down where there is no room to cut anymore. I do so admire your outlook on things - there are indeed so many things to be enjoyed. Tonight our 4 year old grandson sat down next to me on the front steps, leaned his little head against me and said- Grammy I'll just lean on you. There is nothing more precious than that.

I've missed you - glad you can get to the library at least.

Janet said...

Weeping willows are so beautiful! As a kid we had two in our front yard and I loved playing under them. Lots of good memories attached to those trees. Thanks for reminding me of them.

Odette Bautista Mikolai said...

this is very true, and you are not alone in this odessy. at least you are lucky to have kept the roof over your head and clothes on your back - some don't.
it's quite ironic though that we get to find joy in the simplest of things we didn't noticed before.
yes i hope the global economy will improve soon, we are just as affected as you.
good luck!

Robin said...

If you have not found this site already, I would suggest it for free reading! It's the Internet Sacred Text Archive:

I have found lots of good books there on religion, mythology, folklore and the esoteric on the Internet. "The site is dedicated to religious tolerance and scholarship, and has the largest readership of any similar site on the web." I have read several of their Celtic books there and am really enjoying it.

Kelly said...

I praise your efforts to cut back. And you are so right - we need to appreciate more what's "free" around us. I have decided to try to make do with a lot less food, eating 2 meals a day instead of 3. Wow! why didn't I try that before?! Somewhere under this layer of unnecessary fat are a pair of wings that haven't been used for a while. Maybe the stairs won't be so daunting, maybe the walk up my long steep driveway won't be so "breathtaking."
Keep on keeping on, Julie - you are a role model.

Sheila said...

They (whomever they are?!) say the best things in life are free.
We have been economising more than usual and it will soon be a way of life for us too. Hubby is taking retirement a few years early, because of ill health. It has made me realise that we have often spent
unwisely in the past. Now I consider each purchase on the basis of need, rather than want, or frivolity. When I shop now I enjoy it much more, and put more thought into it. We are fortunate that we both have a pension, and health care when so many do not.
I think with the economy being as it is, and an aging population this is the way of the future for many for the next few years.
You have found many way to cope and find happiness in the simple things, and that is the secret.
the willow is beautiful, I've always loved seeing them hanging, reflected in the water.
Have a great weekend..xx

couragetocreatewriteandlove said...

Yes, indeed! Joy is free!
You know I went through quite a lot last year so I know what are you talking about, believe me you will be okay and will gain so much out of this for sure.
I am addicted to coffee and wine, morning and evening, thank God I enjoy it in moderation so a little was enough and so very tasty ;-)
Enjoy joy! and books! and this Summer!
And Summer is so full of color, big sighs here....

Annie Jeffries said...

Your efforts at economy have set you on the road to utter simplicity. It is amazing how much happier we are when we do with less and work out a Plan B to attain the things we want to continue enjoying.

I'm at a point where I'm simply saying no to certain things. I'm planning for how I may tackle things a year from now when I retire, and I HAVE rediscovered the joys of Goodwill discoveries, especially in the book area.

Such a Wondrous Place this Faery Space said...

I, too, love the thistle and the shamrock. They hold special memories and energy for me. Lovely to happen upon this sweet place! Blessings from Amy.

Shopgirl said...

I do not have a Willow Tree but my Daughter Jenny does, it is so pretty right now...just showing leaves. I love the picture, they are really beautiful.
I think we have been on a budget always. I have always had to watch the bottom line. I don't have a boat, or RV. We used to canoe, but we gave it to Cory's kids a couple of summers ago.
We my fly to California after Arney is well. His mother will be 90 in June, she is well, but you never know when she will not be here for us to love. My son Cory will use his free air time for us.
I haven't had to give up cable TV yet, but it could happen. Arney will be off work for about 3 months and the bills still come.
We haven't gone on a vacation in a few years. But there really is so much we could do and see right here in Idaho.
I know you are having a really hard time, these are hard times for so many. You had a very bad winter.
You are so creative, I know you will find away to fill and enjoy your time.
I think we are blessed to have what we have, and I do not take it for granted.
I am here, with Love, Mary

gma said...

One thing I have learned is that we live in an abundant Universe, and it has nothing to do with money. The more we appreciate the things we have, the more we have to appreciate.
Love you

Anonymous said...

Girl that sounds just about like our life here. We do still have the cable and net, probably would not if ODD didn't share the household bills with us. Her and her children have the original part of the house. DH and I live with all of our things in an added on room that is approximately 400 sq feet. We could not afford the house and bills that go with it by ourselves and DD would not be able to afford it by herself. So we split the household bills in half and she buys the majority of the groceries in return for me babysitting her children when she is at work. When the children are in school I only have to get them up and ready for school as her work hours are 3:30am until 1:30 pm Monday thru Fridays. The only groceries DH and I buy are for 3-5 nights a month when it is only him and me at home alone. Lots of people tell us "Oh I couldn't do that" but it works out quite nicely for us. Enjoy the free things and hopefully things will look up soon. Love Hugs and Blessings

Casey said...

Hi Julie. I love your Willow and your courageous spirit!

Strawberry Lane said...

Beautiful, beautiful photos. And ... they were free for me to enjoy.

You have listed all the things we really can do without quite painlessly.

In the garden, I'm doing a lot of pinching and making new plants.

Thank you for your wonderful list of things that are free.

Leanne said...

Hi Julie, from another who has had to tighten the belt over the last fee years too. and I also, get so much pleasure from nature, from the countryside, ther woods, the quiet places...

the willows are beautiful. i always see them as feminine trees, so graceful,
by the way, take a look at google books, theres loads of old books on there for free download, and they make fascinating reading!

leanne x

Leanne said...

PS! i love that motto, i wiull have to use i think!! :-)

Leanne x

Ruthie Redden said...

Wonderful post julie, out of hardship comes hope & change & learning. I believe that in our current economic climate there will be many folk who will slowly learn to change their ways, go back to basics, re-learn, i personally dont think it such a bad thing. where was it all going to end anyway this "materialism". As i discovered 12yrs ago when i found myself a single mom with 3 children, we werent going to starve or freeze or die!! we learnt to appreciate a whole new world of stuff & now all these years later i believe we are all so much better for it. Its the free things in life that are so precious, we live in amazing world, full of amazing folk we just have to learn to notice. ps my last blog was about willow too!! beautiful trees x am keeping acupuncture in mind (!!)

Rowan said...

The words of your title are so true, joy doesn't come from spending money or owning the latest bit of tecnology or designer label clothes. Joy is in the love of family, the beauty of the natural world, the arrival of a new life and so many other things which are literally priceless. I hope you continue to find much joy in your life.

Margaret's Ramblings said...

We have the biggest willow tree I have ever seen just outside our front door on thr green. It is my favourite tree and I follow the seasons with it. For the past ten years we have lived on a tiny budget and now have come to consider it as normal and you know what? I am a lot happier than I was back when I was married and had more to spend. These days my daughter and I have found joy in our garden, our thrift shop finds and the books we read.



Joyce said...

WOW Julie,
Your doing WAY better than me. I think your additude is marvelous and I didn't detect any bitterness in your speech at all.
While others are complaining and whining....and receiving "bailouts" march onward like a seasoned soldier...and I like that about you.
Just hang in there my friend....
You are an amazing person and very rich in oh so many ways.
More so than alot of people out there.
Be blessed,