My garden has been awakening now that spring seems to have arrived for real.

spring, daffodil, narcissis, garden, spring, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It's amazing what a few warm days will do for the plants and for me, too.

I've been cleaning up in the garden, trimming, weeding, edging. Preparing for the growing season and planting out some things that will survive even if the temperature dips to freezing. I've walked barefoot in the grass. I've gotten dirty and sore. I feel awake, again. Alive. My spirit is expanding with inspiration, excitement and joy.

spring, daffodil, narcissis, garden, spring, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

It's as if I've forgotten this part of me, forgotten what it's like to be out in the garden, forgotten what it's like to go outside barefoot, dig in the dirt and soak up the sun.

But it's more than just the changing of the seasons and the beginning of the growing season.

This has been a rough year so far. I haven't shared why that is, or where this detour I'm on has been taking me. I haven't meant to be cryptic; I just wasn't sure what to say and I struggle with how personal to get on my blog.

My blog is about my art, about inspiration, about creativity, nature and gardening. It's also about the struggle to choose joy over darkness, to see beauty not ugliness, to live creatively each day.

daffodils, sketches, sketchbook, pen and ink, black and white, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And yes, choosing light over darkness can be a struggle. During ordinary, day-to-day life it can be a struggle. Busy-ness and the fast pace of our lives challenge it. Failures and frustrations challenge it. The world's cruelty and hate challenge it.

During more personal difficult, scary times it can be even harder.

violas, spring, spring flowers, cinder blocks, cinder block raised bed, gardening, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

In January Matthias was diagnosed with an unusual type of cancer. It was a complete shock. Last Tuesday he finished his fourth and last round of chemotherapy. Even now, after all his treatments I find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that he has cancer (or perhaps the word now is had. There are still tests and procedures before we'll know for certain that we can use the past tense).

I won't go into details (I certainly don't intend to make you feel uncomfortable), but I will say that it's been very difficult. Scary, disheartening. Matthias has been so sick both from the cancer and from its treatment and although the doctor (whom we adore) has been positive and hopeful, the day-to-day dreadful slog of the situation has been challenging.

This year spring is even sweeter because we're coming out of winter, but also because we're coming out of this strange, frightening experience. I find that I've been bracing myself. Almost holding my breath. And now I can breathe deeply again.

spring, bunny, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I imagine that many of you have experience with cancer. Co-workers. Friends. Family members, distant or close. Maybe even you have battled it yourself. It touches so many lives (the statistics are staggering*), but its influence is not all ugliness and darkness. Cancer is life-changing in part because I think it brings with it some unexpected gifts, if we're open to them. The reminder to cherish each day (and each other). The reminder to be present in the moment and to see the beauty that is around us. The reminder not to put off what you really want in life. The reminder that everyone is struggling with something.

Strange as it may sound, this experience has helped me to worry less and to let go of things that are not important.

peonies, spring, garden, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I am so grateful for all of the support, encouragement and love we've been shown. I'm grateful that we live so close to my family (I don't know how I would have gotten through this without them here). I'm grateful for the beauty of the countryside where we live and the landscape and wildlife on our drives to the hospital. I'm grateful for the caring nurses and doctors and hospital staff. I'm grateful for modern technology and healthcare. I'm grateful for spring, wonderful, magical spring and the lifting of the darkness.

Thank you, dear readers, for sticking with me as I've tried to make my way on this journey. I may have faltered a bit at times in my focus and it may still take me a while to find my groove again, but I appreciate your being here.

For those of you struggling through your own detours or challenges, I'm sending light and love to you. Take the time to notice joy. Breathe deep and be present in the moment. Focus on the light and not the darkness.

*This winter I read the book The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a fascinating historical look at cancer. In the preface the author states that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men will develop cancer during their lifetime (from 2010 data). The National Cancer Institute's statistics state that 39.6 percent of people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives (data from 2010-12). Any of those numbers are mind-boggling to me.


  1. Sharing what you are going through is a sort of release that allows space for light. You are right, everyone is touched by cancer. In June 2005, my MIL died from lung cancer, and three months later, my uncle died from brain cancer. Along with Hurricane Katrina that same year (I'm from the South) and the fact that my dad stopped talking to me, let's just say 2005 was not a very good year at all. Sending healing wishes for Matthias.

    1. Hi, Tammy. Thanks so much for dropping in and thank you for sharing your experience. I think until our lives are touched with cancer it's easy to overlook how much damage it does. This experience has made me so much more sensitive to that.

      I'm sorry 2005 was such a bad year. Bad years are good teachers, even if they're painful. I hope you've been able to heal.

      Sending gratitude and healing thoughts your way.

  2. I love you guys. So happy to see you coming through this and still finding joy. Give Matthias a hug from me. I'm here for you whenever you need me.

    1. Love you, too! I'll email you.

      I'll give him a hug, but it won't compare to the sweet big squeeze I know you'd give if you were here.

      Sending big squeezes back your way, too.

  3. The numbers certainly are staggering and as I just buried my uncle last Friday (yes, from cancer) I can't help but believe them. You two are young and strong and I hope Matthias has beat the monster that is cancer. I'm so glad it's finally warmer weather time as I well know you are too. Everything will be a little sweeter this year... Love and Light to you.

    1. Sometimes it seems that all you hear about is cancer, cancer, cancer. You've had more than your share of experience with it, Jaime. I'm so sorry about your uncle.

      I hope you're finding lots of time to enjoy the beauty of spring.

      Sending gratitude and love and light back your way.

  4. "e"very day is a blessing.

  5. I am so glad that Matthias has finished his treatment and wish him a steady road to recovery. I am sure that keeping a positive attitude helps immensely. Joy over darkness is a great mantra - I think I will use it daily! Thank you for writing so honestly and openly Anne. I know that you have been through a lot so far this year and hope that you have an easier ride for the rest of the year. Enjoy time spent barefoot in the grass (won't be doing that here as it has turned so cold!) and continue to do the things that bring you joy. Much love to you and Matthias.

    1. Thank you, Simone.

      Joy over darkness is a great mantra.

      We've ended up in a cool spell here, too, so no bare feet in the grass for the moment.

      Hope spring smiles on you soon and that your weather this year is better than last.

      Thank you for your encouragement and the constancy of your friendship. Sending much love back your way, too.

  6. Hello Anne,
    I am sending extra hugs.
    You are so right about looking at what is important in our day and not to worry about the other. xx oo
    That is something I have to work on. To remember to ENJOY each day. Even if things do not go the way I thought they should...find the joy in it.

    1. Hi, Carla,
      Thanks for the extra hugs! I really appreciate your friendship and thoughtful comments. I'm always happy to know that my words resonate with you.

      I hope you're enJOYing the day.


  7. Anne - what brave writing and understanding of the curve ball you've both been thrown. My heart goes out to you both and I send all my wishes for health, recovery and healing x

    1. Hi, Claire. Thank you for stopping by and thank you for the words of encouragement and support.

      One thing I've learned through all of this is that you just keep going. Get thrown a curve ball and what choice is there? You go with it. Matthias taught me that more than anyone. He's been so brave through all of this, staying upbeat and moving onward.

      I can't say it's been easy, but that's just the way it is sometimes.

      Sending gratitude to you and wishes of joy.

  8. Anne, I forgot to say how much I love that bunny photo - too cute! :)

    1. Isn't it darling? Unfortunately there's a bit of a traumatic story involved. Found that little bunny in the yard all by itself a few days after I discovered we had a rabbit's nest in the old compost pile. I only discovered it because one of the greyhounds discovered it first. Charlie LOVES rabbits, baby bunnies in particular.

      I won't go into details. Let's just say that when the mother moved her nest a few days later I was very relieved!

  9. I'm so glad he's done with his treatment and I'm hoping all is clear when they do the final testing. You have helped so many people just by sharing your experience here. It's awesome that it helped you put things into perspective and let things that aren't truly important go. That bunny is the cutest!

    1. Thank you, Dana.

      I do hope that I can help others. Just thinking about things is helpful. Taking a look at our perspective. Getting reminders of what is important (and how much of what we worry about isn't).

  10. Sweet Anne, we're all rooting for you and Matthias and I feel certain that you both will come out of this stronger. Going to a place of gratitude is the best course, as you know, and I so appreciate you sharing your journey with us. It's a reminder to not take anything for granted. <3

    1. Thank you, Laurie for all the encouragement and support!

      Yes, we shouldn't take anything for granted. But it's so easy to get caught up in the bustle of the everyday and forget. Practicing gratitude helps so much and taking the time to reflect. I know I'm constantly reminding myself to do just that.


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