All posts by Sonja Hakala

I have been a professional writer since 1987. I've written for newspapers, magazines, worked in the book publishing industry, and published novels and non-fiction books. In addition, I've guided numerous authors through the process of independent publishing, and offer workshops in that same vein. I'm the founder of the Parkinson's Comfort Project and over the course of six years, we gathered and gave away over 500 handmade quilts to people with Parkinson's disease.

Hoeing and Weeding and Composting, Oh My!

Dames rockets, also called dames violets, are in full bloom now
We watched swallowtail butterflies on the dames rockets in my gardens all weekend

I had a difficult time getting motivated for gardening this year. Part of it was Irene-us Interrupt-us. Part of it was uncertainty of what gardens and plants had to be moved because of the Irene construction that’s revving up around here.

And part of it is a growing (or maybe that should be groaning) reluctance to take on the body hurt that comes with gardening.

But by mid-May, the general weediness gets to me, and armed with trowels and shovels and a wheelbarrow, I get out there to dig, rip, and tear.

Every year, I use the three-day Memorial Day weekend to tackle my gardens with a full-court press. And every year, by the time Monday ends, I hurt everywhere that didn’t get used during the winter. And every year, I swear I will not do this to myself again.

And then, of course, I do.

So glad to be sitting at my desk today.

On Grafton Pond

One of two broods who welcomed us to Grafton Pond
Grafton Pond is serene early in the morning

Our kayaking season started today. We rose at five (yes, that’s in the a.m.) to get to Grafton Pond in Grafton, NH early in the morning.

This is a popular fishing and kayaking spot around here. The pond is festooned with lots of small islands around its perimeter, and it’s home to several pairs of loons. In fact, Grafton Pond is the place where we’ve had our best loon encounters yet.

But this morning, two broods of Canada geese greeted us, and mosquitoes masquerading as small hover craft accompanied us on our turn about the water. We spotted a flock of loons way off on the horizon, and heard their calls off in the distance. But there were no close encounters of the loon kind.

But kayaks, silence, the scent of pine, cool air.

Wonderful.

The First Writer


I found this wee weaver along the path by our river yesterday. She’s a member of the Arachnida tribe, named for the mortal woman from Lydia, in Greek mythology, who challenged the goddess Athena to a weaving contest.

Arachna won the contest, with dire consequences. It does not do to challenge a goddess.

Spiders play many roles in the ancient tales of the world. They are, in many respects, an otherworldly creature, dropping from on high along invisible threads, enticing prey with intricate webs.

Who has not been attracted to a bedewed web dangling among twigs on an early morning? I know I’ve tried my best to take pictures of them, and have yet to be satisfied with my results.

My favorite Spider story comes from Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson. In this book, which accompanies a wonderful deck of cards suitable for meditation, Spider wove the primordial alphabet as “she wove the dream of the world to become manifest.”

So what tale is this riverside weaver creating for you?

Spring Gardens—Because It’s Wednesday

A bachelor button in paintbrush formation
Bachelor buttons and bleeding hearts
Dames rocket (sometimes called Dames violet) just before it blooms. One of my favorite wildflowers, I imported this into my garden a few years ago.
For such a dainty flower, lilies of the valley are amazing hardy. I dug the roots of these out of the area where earthen steps descend on the east side of our house. This spring, the lilies are back in the steps.
Snow in summer. This is one of my favorite ground covers. I think I’m going to pick up some more of this for spring planting.

What Is True Blue?

Blue—or is it purple—columbine
Creeping Veronica—a study in blue?

I love all flowers but the ones that stir my passion the most lie in the cool blue range.

But blue can lie in the eye of the beholder.

Behold this wonderful columbine now in full flower in a garden right in front of my house. Blue? Blue-purple? Purple? At different times of day, in different lights, the red contribution to this flower’s color can swing it more toward the purple spectrum.

These terrific flowers came to live here courtesy of a yoga teacher who lives in Lebanon, NH. Her studio is in a barn behind her double-decker house, and at this time of year, both sides of her driveway were lined with these. So, of course, I begged for seeds.

We had a rough start, these columbine and I, because that first spring, I mistook them for weeds and pulled nearly all of them out of the ground. Thank goodness a couple of seedlings hid among some rocks where I finally recognized them.

We’ve been good friends ever since as I’ve spread these little lovelies among my gardens, and shared seeds with friends.

The second picture is of another one of my favorites, creeping Veronica. The originals of this plant came home in small pots from a gardener in Hartford village who sells perennials in her front yard every year at this time.

Blue? Sky blue? Pale blue?

Once this plant gets a good grip on the soil, it thickens up like music lovers in a coffee house, spreading by root action. The flowers are tiny, about the size of my little fingernail. And as an added bonus, it transplants easily, and makes it difficult for most weeds to get any action. Though this year—which I have dubbed the year of the ubiquitous maple seedling—there are tiny trees sprouted up everywhere, even among the thickets of creeping Veronica.

Yet another example of the power of botanicals.

Don’tcha just love it? Chick-a-boom.

Babies, Babies, Babies


This morning, we discovered we have two pairs of Canada geese who are raising their broods on our stretch of the White River.

So exciting.

When Goldie and I left on our early morning tramp to watch the growing-ever-greener landscape
get greener on this misty morning,
one set of parents had their nine little ones in a sheltered spot
where they could swim a bit and eat away from prying eyes.

Except for mine.

I just couldn’t resist.

Nine babies, newly hatched and already turning a dusky color so they are better camouflaged.

Aren’t they wonderful?