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Tucson patio’s peace sets post-Hanukkah tone

Barbara Russek’s success with roses took her by surprise.

Even as the menorah shines its brightest these last three nights of Hanukkah, our eight-day Festival of Lights is starting to wind down. Presents have been opened and latkes savored. Hanukkah 5779 will soon become a sweet memory.

So, what are your plans for the rest of December? How are you going to relax and regain your sense of equilibrium after all the Hanukkah hoopla? Perhaps during a leisurely drive to photograph spectacular vistas in Arizona, maybe with a relaxing week at a spa or for the Francophiles among us with a cruise that meanders through the Tahiti Islands.

Delightful as these various getaways could be, my favorite way to regain inner peace involves no more traveling than walking out my front door and into the tranquility of the patio — just a few hundred square feet of space.  A little tending and a lot of what I call nature’s miracles have produced a treat for the senses that is soothing to both body and soul.

As I relax on the patio after a busy day, the tiny rose garden calls to me. In his book “Le Petit Prince,” French author Antoine de St. Exupery recounts how the little prince singles out just one rose to “tame” and make his. I wonder what the little prince would think of the glorious task I have of taming masses of roses in hues of pink, yellow, and peach.

My rose garden had its humble beginnings some years back with miniature rose plants I often bought at Trader Joe’s. One day after the blooms on my latest acquisition faded, the mad scientist in me decided to plant them and see what happened. Expectations weren’t high, as my knowledge of horticulture is limited to the tip of one of my very non-green thumbs.

Much to my astonishment, those miniature rose plants have been growing their little hearts out ever since and now tower over me. Many of the now luscious blooms have a fragrance that has as much soothing power as lavender or other calming scents. Even more amazing, they bloom twice a year — in late fall and spring. Another of nature’s miracles.

Adding to the mystery of the flora in my front patio is an array of annual vincas that appears to have sprung up from nowhere, now spilling out over the edges of my goldfish pond. These dainty flowers thrive in warmer weather and can even handle full sun in summer’s blistering heat. Nature’s miracles abound.

Speaking of my goldfish pond, I have 10 of the cutest goldfish you ever saw — yes, I know I’m biased! — swimming harmoniously about in their tub-sized pond approximately 4 feet long, blissfully unaware of the world’s problems.

Amazingly, goldfish can handle cold weather when the temperature outside is below freezing.  I remember learning in science class that fish are cold blooded. But these little guys are only 3 inches long! While I have to bundle up on a cold winter’s day just to walk to the mailbox, the goldfish are enjoying their skinny-dipping to the max. Oh, to be a goldfish for a day and have nothing more pressing to do than listen to the gentle sounds of water trickling over the rocks into the pond.

Settled into a comfy chaise lounge, I gaze up at the shady orange tree. Each year I watch the orderly process in amazement, from pollination of those intoxicating orange blossoms in April (just where do those bees come from anyway?) to the resulting fruit in December.

I’ve added a fuchsia colored bougainvillea to the patio, other potted plants, and a few French-themed decorations. No, it’s definitely not Le Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, not even close.  But when I relax outside, surrounded by nature’s miracles, especially during this season of miracles, a feeling of peace comes over me, which I hope will be reflected in my interactions with others.

Barbara Russek, a former French teacher, is a freelance writer. She welcomes comments at