What a lovely Sunday morning, that I woke to. The sun rose with a gentle light. Birds were singing, happily. They did not sing songs of revolution, nor for their rights, nor chaos. They sang because they could. Peace washed over me like a fountain and I wished, every living soul on this planet could partake in it. I think it impossible, to witness a morning, full of a soothing splendor, and not feel grateful and hopeful. It is very humbling to know the grandness of nature and it neednt’ be an ocean , nor a mountain top, a patch of sunlight will do nicely. “Joy does come in the morning”.
I do not know the last time, that I was home for two week ends in a row. I was not sitting here void of something to do, at least. I never am. I started washing the windows, a task that I abhor. Of course, I wait til my view of the garden and the cherry tree is obscured entirely.. before I wash them. There are eighteen windows in this old house, not counting the sun room nor the laundry room! Then and almost foremost, is the territory, full of fallen leaves hemmed up in every corner and about knee deep . Gone are the days, when I accomplished such things in a single day. I would rather cook a full meal for twenty four people and wash curtains than attempt windows and leaves. . .and besides, I am just not good at washing windows. That beloved sun tattles on me every time.
I decided to cook a “Sunday Dinner”. A roast could cook slowly and so could a pot of beans. Kyle is supposed to stop by today and I will share with Mama. It will be a delightful diversion from my tainted windows. I sorely miss those Sundays, a few years back, when Mama and Daddy came. I always find it amusing, that we will go to such great lengths to orchestrate an event, we are sure is destined to become a golden memory. . . when the reality is, we are much more likely, to remember the “way” of life, mostly.
The Sundays of my childhood meant Church and Church clothes. Hard pinching patent leathers, itchy lace, sashes and if Mama got lucky, my hair would hold curl, til we got there. I did love Sunday school and it wasn’t just because of the cookies. I had the sweetest teachers . . .Miss Nellie, Miss Catherine, Miss Jo and later the dear Miss Tillie. These women made me want to be good. I learned my verses faithfully and still hum the sweet songs, I learned. These ladies, did not look mighty or powerful, but they were, for their love was sufficient and enough to last a lifetime.
Now, in those days, children attended the service, afterwards. The pianist, Miss Arahbelle , was like a quiet light. She did not bang out the old hymns, but played them reverently. The preachers were not quiet-and they always seemed mad about something. I was always sure that we were all an awful lot . . . but if you caught them on a Tuesday, they were friendly, regular folks and I loved everyone of them.
Mama tells a funny story about how one preacher saved her life. I do not know why, Mama was in Grandmamas’ china cabinet, in the first place. The doors were difficult to open, but Mama just snatched as hard as she could, til at last the whole cabinet tumbled over, shattering the cups and plates, with dainty flowers on them. The racket sent folks running and at that very moment, the preacher walked in! Wisely, he stayed long enough, for Grandmama to regain her good sense. . .and so Mama lived to tell about it. I suppose some memories are made in that kind of way.
I spend a lot of time remembering. I do not want to forget the people that loved me as a child. I do not want to forget the way of my life. It seems like an extravagant gift that is too grand not to talk about. . . and it feels selfish, not to remember. As I washed those dirty windows I recalled all sorts of details about my elders, my cousins and the little farm . I do not embellish their stories, the truth is good enough. Besides, these people in some way, belong to my children and to Lyla, Brynn and Ryan -and the ones yet to come. In a world ablaze with change, it does me good to remember, for it makes me keenly aware of what really matters, what lasts – and somehow it preserves my stamina to “act right”.
I do not only remember, when I work. I dream too. I do a lot of “wishful thinking”. I can’t help but take note of what I do have right at the moment, too. A small flock of red finches broke my trance, once. The sunshine, at a certain hour, lit up one of the old oaks til it was a spectacular blaze of scarlet. My boxer slept as peacefully in the sun as the vast field in front of the rabbitpatch. When the ladder moved, so did the boxer. I was glad to have such a faithful dog. What a comfort, he is to me. He is a handsome dog , as well and earns his keep in a lot of ways.
It didn’t matter to me which way I looked, or the direction of my gaze, this current day, I realised that God, has turned me “every which way . . .but loose”. -all of my life.
By the end of the day, I had given the windows, my best shot and a few piles of leaves , now burned cheerfully. I also cleaned up my potting and planting station and took note of other tasks that loomed ahead.
Supper was ready, when I walked in which was a good thing, for I was weary to the bone. . . but so restored in spirit.
Since, I have been away . . all this happened.
Since, I wrote last, every window at the rabbitpatch, has been shut. I was caught completely off guard by the remnants of “Zeta” and so the thing showed up like unexpected company. Friday morning, before light, strong winds woke me. I was startled by their force and had not “battened down the hatches” nor stored a drop of water! I have got to do better about the weather reports. I have avoided the news for a long while. Sadly, I have lost faith in the accuracy of the headlines, but I did used to get a decent weather forecast.
Thankfully, the terrible wind was gone in a short while. At sunrise, those first long slanted rays, were born in stillness and revealed branches and pumpkins and porch rockers, strewn about the yard. The air was almost cold. That is why, I shut the windows. Since then, the air has stayed cool and a friendlier wind, blows constantly. I have washed every blanket in the house and taken advantage of my dear clothes line.
Since, I was home this weekend, and in the absence of my grandchildren, Halloween passed like any other day. . .unless you consider the moon. It was as bright as I have ever seen it. It drenched the territory in moonshine and transformed everything in to a thing of beauty. The cotton field behind me, seemed to glow. Saturn and Mercury were beautiful colors and always Venus shines. . . as does Mars. There was the big dipper right where I expected it to be, over the oldest barn. I stood there a while til the cares of this world dimmed.
With the clocks having been tinkered with, I was up extra early on Tuesday. I left for work and had traveled about a mile, when the car just faded ! The motor was purring, but the motion just left til at last it stopped, stranding me -and on such a lovely morning. Thankfully, I live on a rural road, but it is also “a cut through road” and like everywhere else I go, folks seem to be running late. The only way the car would go, was reverse and so I backed all the way back to the sanctuary of the rabbitpatch. Though, I didn’t have a single close call . . .I came in shattered and startled the boxer.
I called the school . . and then I called Tres. Tres is very mechanical. His personality is a carbon copy of my own dad. I knew he would guide me on my next move and what to expect. Daddy was an expert mechanic, but though I favor him and have many of his traits, I did not inherit a single bit of any mechanical ability. I did know it was the transmission.
I have always driven older cars and lawn mowers. I used to tell the boys, “there is trash in the carburetor” or “it could be the alternator” but I had no idea where such things were located. I asked Christian if he had any friend, who was a mechanic . . .any one at all? Of course, he did not, for his friends are all artists, chefs or glass blowers! Christian is a carbon copy of me.
To make this long story short, I spent all day trying to find a mechanic. Apparently, no one around here fixes a transmission, instead they just replace it. I had thought to put an old white towel under the car, and as it turned out, there was a leak. The fluid from the transmission on that towel, left me convinced of that. “Lord willing” . . .at the end of the day, I had found a mechanic, considered an expert, with Toyotas, willing to repair the transmission or replace it at half the cost of any one else.
Christian and I were both mentally exhausted, for we had spent the day way out of our comfort zone, weighing the costly decision, with little to go on. “Money does not grow on trees” at the rabbitpatch. It washes through like water and just like water, you just can’t hold it in your hands. I admit, that money has bothered me on many occasions and it sure did on this day. But, a few years ago, at the height of ” a storm” -It suddenly dawned on me, that no matter what came up, we did always come through it. . .even when it seemed impossible. . . and it was not due to the odds, or human logic, even. God does not care about the odds, it seems. nor the fallacy of human reasoning. I reminded myself of this every time a repair quote came in, that was at least a months’ wages. -and quite feebly at first, whimpering like a child. How awful it was to step into familiar traps, I thought. I reminded myself of all the earthly battles people are facing, fiercer than mine, til at last I felt ashamed and vowed to do better, As the light faded, Christian asked me if I was okay and I was able to say . . “yes, it is just a car repair, after all.”
I have never had too much interest in politics. I have little patience for the “double talking” . I do not tolerate “Silver tongues” amongst ordinary folks and I am sure politicians are born with them. . .but this is a different season. I have been an avid student for months, now of how the government works, the folks in office and those who want to be. As it turns out, just like my transmission, something is broken. Finding the truth, is like looking for that needle in the haystack. It is no wonder to me that folks are angry, for we are all feeling desperate, which is a terrible thing. We have become a suspicious nation, with good reason. The seeds of fear were planted with precision and grow as wildly as those thorned vines on the rabbitpatch. Frankly, I am bewildered at “the state of the union”.
I do not find pleasure in writing about anything ugly, but we have a “huge elephant in the house” and I can not ignore the dark shadow, he casts. “Time will tell” as it always does, what the next part of the journey holds. . .“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.
I did not have to work today, for now schools here, have an ever so often, “remote day”. I had dismantled every alarm and since rain was in the forecast, I had planned to sleep til at least dawn. I woke as usual, long before sunrise. I was wide awake right off and sprang out of bed like a rocket. The world was dark and there was a constant breeze rattling the drying leaves on the old trees. Not yet, has autumn bloomed here. The woodlands have only faded to a dull green, thus far. The days are as warm as April and only require a light sweater, in the early hours, The windows are still up at the rabbitpatch.
The time I spent with Ryan, pn my last visit, was hallowed to me. He is as delightful as ever and rarely cries. We took a few strolls and I showed him the sky, til he would point it out to me. A few of the maples were adorned in scarlet and so I ended up with a maple leaf, to press in Ryans’ journal. . .for of course I introduced him to the trees. There was also the moon, which he already knew about -and birds. I would be hard pressed to name a more delightful moment, than when Ryans’ fair face is gazing in sheer wonder at the Handiwork of God.
One day, we visited a pumpkin patch. It was the biggest pumpkin patch that i had ever seen. Rolling hills were covered with bright splashes of orange. There was a corn maze and a hay ride-all sorts of activities, but we declined all of them. Instead we walked by the corn field. Ryan loved the freedom of open air and open space to frolic in. We left with pumpkins and blackberry sauce. . . and a wonderful memory.
Now the work week went along, til it was Friday. That was the day that Mama and I left to go see my sister, Delores and niece, Dana, at their beach house. . . three hours away.
The GPS on Mamas’ car worked the first few hours, then the screen went blank and the thing started barking all sorts of bad directions. Regular readers know this was a nightmare come true, for me. Traffic was awful and convinced me everybody was late for something. . . and had nine lives. I resorted to reading signs, like we used to and at long last, with a call or two to Delores, we made it. It had taken us an hour longer, than expected. Dana presented us with gifts as soon as we were settled and that took a lot of the sting out of our harrowing trip. Dana is an artist in heart and so she made us bracelets. Mine had a honeybee on it!
On Saturday, not long after breakfast, we went to the soft sands by the mighty Atlantic. There were a few folks in the distance and the weather was perfect. The ocean waves were gentle and lapped softly on the shore. For a while we collected shells and neglected our books. I collected shells for my friend, Elaine, for she is a devoted care giver for her husband and Miss Thelma. Her outings are limited to appointments and grocery pick up. I started making “pictures” with shells for amusement and made several little birds. Then we all sat and talked, and neglected our books some more. It is not often, the ocean seems drowsy and without constant churning, the water was a pure aqua color. It was worth neglecting a book, to hear my Mama laugh by such a sea. . .and to listen to my sisters’ hopes and dreams.
Delores has a lovely house. It is spacious and furnished beautifully. If it were featured in a magazine, I would not be shocked. Every bedroom has a large balcony and so does the dining area and the living room. Meals was prepared precisely. Delores used measuring cups and spoons and timers- a far cry from my sloppy methods -and each meal was applauded.
You probably know that Mama and I dreaded the trip back. Delores had found some type of GPS on Mamas’ fancy phone and assured us it would be accurate. Still, I had her at least tell me how to get off the island. “Left, left, right, left” I chanted as we drove away. The homes there were all extravagant and painted in every pastel, I could name . . but mostly empty of people. When Mama and I got to the main roads, I kept a cautious eye on where we were, just in case -but the gps did chime in and relieved my concerns. We were home at the predicted hour, as it turned out.
For a while, the ocean was mine, and I had the sea shells to prove it. I was part of a different world, where there were no folks to ask me who I was voting for and covid was not a threat on the sandy shore. The Atlantic was singing and shining for the world, no matter our transgressions against her, for “love keeps no record of wrongs.” In these “unfamiliar days, of unfamiliar ways, nature remains as steadfast as the arms of a mother. . . and like a mother, talks to us without insincerity and without malice . Even a young pine knows that . . .and an old sparrow, does too.
There is a light rain falling this morning, from a silvery sky. It taps on the leaves, which are just sparsely scattered on the territory. The blooms of the goldenrod seems to light up the edge of the woods, on such days. Still, there is some patches of late blooming floss flower -and the grass is still green. The old barns look even older . . .when it rains. Sundays are especially quiet in our farming community. The farmers do not pick corn, unless there is threatening weather predicted-and no one can repair a barn nor mow the lawn, even if they were a might to -in rain. A rainy Sunday suits me just fine.
I am rarely home on weekends and so there are all sorts of “tasks at hand” to tend. Yesterday, I made a small fire in the garden and burned a bit of debris from the hurricane, a month ago. Half of the garden is still piled high, but I like tending small fires and therefore, may be burning in December!
Years ago, when the boys were here, burning the garden was like a celebration. A small fire is prone to make you think peaceful thoughts or to make you think of nothing at all. To be friendly, the fire should be small and burn slowly. Different woods produce different smells. When there is a tinge of pine, I am most delighted. Now, the boxer loves a fire too and races around when he sees me gathering pine cones to start one. Once there are flames, he falls asleep. The cat watches intently, as I do. I still enjoy a fire, but it was better when the boys were here.
I couldn’t help but cook today, just as I couldn’t help but write. The conditions were perfect for both. I am making dishes, with Mama in mind. So far, she has chili and biscuits. Spaghetti sauce is simmering and I am thinking to make asparagus in a creamy, buttery soup with garlic. I do hope to makes something sweet, for I have such a “sweet tooth” . . but Mama is so much more sensible than I am, when it comes down to sweets. Christian is too, so it always falls on me not to waste a cake or a cookie. As the food simmers and fills the house with enticing aromas, I hum a merry tune as I go about other business. . .and there always is “business that needs tending” when you live on a rabbitpatch.
On Monday, I was up before the crack of dawn. I had lessons for remote learning students and like everything else, the process has changed. I declare that I learn technology as slowly as “molasses pour in January” . I have lessons in my head that have to “roost” there til I can get them posted. Still, I can wash clothes or cook beans while I mull through things, so I ought not to complain. . . and the presence of the boxer is so very pleasant.
In the late afternoon, I visited with Mama and presented her with my efforts in the kitchen on Sunday. She was especially happy about the biscuits. Mama is doing as well as anybody could, with a life turned upside down. Daddy died six months ago and all of us are still apt to burst in to tears at any given moment. We sat on the porch, as it was a nice day.
It seems to me, that taking time to mourn, is quite necessary, but the odds are just against having that opportunity, in our very modern ways. We are expected to return to our routine, in a matter of days, even if your Daddy dies. I thought about this when Grandmama died. Kyle was in high school, and was told to write a paper about why he missed three days of school, without a note from a doctor. To me, it seemed like a punishment. Grandmama lived with us and died with us. . . You must know, that I helped Kyle write that paper.
I know first hand, that no matter how great the loss, no matter how vast the void imposed . . that we must find our way back to living with it. Still, I think we need more that a few days -or the day after the funeral, to even begin the processing of healing a single iota. The world is just not set up , to do so. Daddy died during the covid “lock down” . School was closed, but , there was so much business to tend to, that I remember saying over and over . . .” I will cry later”.
The days were lovely this week and perfect for dancing outside. We are working on an almost military style dance and it takes a good deal of muscle and memory. We take breaks often. This week we sat and watched clouds, on our breaks. The class of young children became silent, I noticed and when I looked around, every one of them was staring with great concentration. I wondered that day, if anything greater could have happened in music class.
Before, I knew it, it was Friday and I was packing to go to Raleigh to see my son, Brant and his family. I was up early enough, that I had completed my work for school, so I left in the early afternoon. I drove through a light rain, a heavy rain and an outright storm, as it turned out. Traffic was light, thankfully and I was soon at the home on Hamlet Green, where some folks beloved to me, live. It had been just over a month since I had seen Ryan last . . . .and that was way too long, for this Honeybee.
I spent a delightful weekend in Elizabeth City. The weather was as lovely, as I have ever seen. It is true, that I can be quite fickle about seasons, but these days, I declare that autumn is my favorite. The hateful southern humidity vanishes and the brightest days of the year are here. Evenings are chilly and so are mornings. A light soft blanket will do just fine. . . .and supper can be bit heartier, than in months like July.
The little grand daughters and I took several walks by the laughing river, during my visit. The constant breeze seemed to tickle the shining water. Lyla walks now, beside a fancy little stroller for Brynn. One day, we walked over a mile. It was too lovely a day not to do so. Lyla never complained, but she did say, when her home was in sight, “I am going to take my shoes off, as soon as we get in.” -and she did.
Another day, when we walked, the river was a deep purple. What a pretty sight that was! The sky was a royal blue and here and there were stark white, cotton clouds. Some of the dogwoods have started to turn crimson and their berries are already a bright red. We watched a small family of birds have a late breakfast of them. The birds chattered cheerfully and caused quite a commotion as they feasted on the generous bounty of October.
I tucked these things in my heart and told Lyla to do the same. I have had this practice, for decades. My idea is that if you fill your heart with gladness and beauty, there won’t be as much room for undesirable notions . Besides, it can’t do a bit of harm.
With such turbulent times, I have slipped back into the habit of keeping up, somewhat with the news. Of course, now one must sift through the many falsehoods, to find a single strand of truth. That is tiring. What truth, I do find -and I use that word loosely – is not pleasant. Everyone is full of harsh expression and folks are sorted into categories as if we were objects. I fear hearts have hardened. There are systems for everything “under the sun”, yet to me we are less civilized now, than ever.
Maybe, I have gotten old and grumpy. I will risk that and say, that a lot of things seem to “have taken a turn for the worse”. I agree with Solomon –for I too am dismayed with all the folly, but I am more determined than ever to live a meaningful life. . . so I have thought a lot lately about that.
I can not cure this virus, nor feed all the hungry people in this world. I can not clean up the planet, or make it a safe “playground” for its’ children. . oh, I do have quite a lofty “wish list”. . .but sometimes, it seems that what I am mostly doing is working to eat and keep the electricity bill paid! How shallow, I think. Lacking worldly power and influence, I have only very ordinary earthly means at my disposal. . . but I do not lack will and perseverance. I do not lack the capacity to love, either.
In light of all this “vexation”, I drew the conclusion that the contents of a meaningful life varies greatly, depending on whom you ask. For me, I will keep strolling along the banks of rivers and meandering through fields and woods. I will stand in moonshine and plant flowers. I will feed people as best I can and teach my grand children poetry. I will fill their hearts and souls with beauty and gratitude. I will try not to be wasteful and I will value the lives of strangers and sparrows, too. I will dwell on these things, for that is what I can do. . . but above all I will love . I do not suppose, my “meaningful ” life will change the world, but it may have its’moments. For all I know, that may be enough. After all, there have been many small moments, in my own life, that made a difference. . .and I can not dismiss the significance of my elders. Not a one of them could claim fame or fortunes, according to this world . . yet they left us all better off .
My paternal grandmother never had a drivers’ license. She did not hold a fancy job nor ever have fancy money, yet often we all talk about the grand legacy, she left us. Grandmama loved us with all her heart, and never made a secret of it. The way she loved impacted her children which impacted her grandchildren and all the children thereafter, which include my own grandchildren. Grandmama served God and she made no secret of that either. Grandmama ‘wore her sermons in her shoes” -and if she ever sinned, well, it was long before any of us came along. No one ever had a bad thing to say about her, and that ought to tell you something. Grandmama made a difference with her life. . .a mighty difference. So, I take heart in that and decide, to just watch the weather.
The diary of this country woman certainly is short on glamour and fanfare -but it is my own story, told in truth. . . and that ought to count for something. Maybe, if we all just try to seek whatever is pure and holy and good . . . . and love one another . . .maybe that is meaningful. . . maybe that is good enough.
I woke this morning, to a light rain falling. Since I did not have to go in to work, I laid very still and listened to the gentle splash of the raindrops on the windows and roof. How tenderly the rain fell. It would have lulled me right back to sleep, but a rainy morning entices me to wake and not a miss moment. It is my favorite time to write, after all.
It never rains, that I do not remember, the voices of my elders, saying “I love you like rain.” Tears well up as I write this now, fifty years later, remembering my maternal grandmother, for she said it the most. Of course we were a farming family, and so rain meant a lot to us. I say this to my children and grandchildren, for it is one more way to “tell the story”.
Thankfully, this week did not pass with the fanfare of the week, before it. There were not quite so many unusual details . There is always a project to be done on the rabbitpatch, but the fervor of a prospective buyer coming always evokes a sense of rush- and those that know me best, can testify, that I elude rush with practiced skill. The young man called me a few days after his visit, to say how much he loved the rabbitpatch, but could not buy it. Now, things work out as they ought to and so, I do not need consolation. What I needed, I received and that is always of great profit.
If gains are only measured financially, then it is no wonder to me that folks feel “robbed” or that they “lost out” on something, often. We conjure up outcomes, according to our desires never considering our solutions might not be brilliant or even right. I have learned this the hard way, as I have most lessons, but the liberty that results, is well worth the “hard knocks”.
“Officially” it is now Autumn, that beloved time of mine. Oh, how I love the brightest days of the year -and the silvery, grey ones too. The air is filled with chill and fog and dancing leaves and tendrils of smoke rising from small burn piles, tended by folks wearing light jackets. . .just like my “Pop” used to.
I am a sentimental sort, by nature, and for some reason autumn time never fails to awaken memories dimmed in other seasons. I have said before, that September is a time to remember -at least for me. The farm was such a happy time in early autumn. The long, hot , toiling summer days were behind us and the harvest days were like a long celebration. The elders were cheerful and laughed a lot. Grandmama made an apple pie every day, for there were several apple trees along the edge of the garden. It was the next best thing to Christmas.
After those years, my memories are of football games and realising that ” boys were cute”. I collected rain water to wash my hair in and polished my oxfords, promptly at the first sign of a scuff. I preferred a different radio station and sang the songs aloud as I walked the woods and fields – and dreamed like a “big shot”, for that is the fashion of dreams in youth. Thankfully, those shallow dreams vanished in to the thin woodland air, along with my youth, for a more beautiful life, than I could have ever imagined, unfolded. Years later, I was a mother and every autumn, after frost, we were in the woods. We walked and read books and picnicked regularly.
It seems, that I take a long stroll down “memory lane”, every autumn and this year is no exception. . . . but this year, more than any one , . . . I am remembering Daddy.
The shock of losing Daddy, has almost worn off. Now, the sorrow has settled in, at times, thicker than the blinding fog at dawn. I was looking at Christmas ornaments recently, and could not imagine, a Christmas without Daddy. I painted a table, one day, that Daddy had given me-my dear “Morning Table”. I could not wait to be done with it and the glory of the crisp white paint, was lost on me. I argued again, with a door knob, that Daddy had tried to fix and couldn’t-which had shocked me, then. Now, I know that was one of first warnings, I was given, but I missed it altogether. Everything seems to prod me to remember Daddy . . even supper, some times.
I am not crippled by the sadness and do not even see it as something peculiar. Grief can masquerade in many ways and show up at odd times. It is a natural consequence when we lose someone we loved-and someone that loved us. It is an undeniably powerful force and we just never get to be an expert at grief. I do not give an account of this, to initiate sympathy, for we have all grieved over some sort of loss. Like the rain, “it falls on the just and the unjust” – instead, maybe there is some sort of consolation, in knowing that it really is ok, to mourn while you paint a table or if “out of the blue” tears fall on Christmas ornaments.
Grief is a complicated affair. . .and not all days are created equally. Some days are bright and hopeful and others are not. . . .but really all offer some beauty, if we but examine the contents of them. I am convinced that I will not have to look far or hard or long to confirm this.
The maples will soon be scarlet and the sweetgum will don every autumn color, all at once, earning bragging rights, in the countryside. Now, the fields lie golden and beckon us to gaze upon them. They shine fairly now, in the light of early autumn. The bright plumes of the ragweed cover the ditch banks and floss flowers and wild mulberry bloom-and that sweet morning glory . . . .Daddy never did like morning glory, for they tangled up on the plows of his tractor. . . but I thought, they made the tractor beautiful.
Seldom is a week as full as this past one was, for me.
The week started off with Brynns’ second birthday party. Mama and I had spent a night there. Brant and Sydney were there with little Ryan-and so were Tres and Sarah.
Lyla decided she wanted to sleep with her Nana and I on the pull out couch. Jenny thought it was an awful idea, but Mama and I agreed with Lyla. It will be a sweet memory. I thought. That night, Lyla wanted to sleep with her soft little bear, who just happened to have a balloon tied to him. Jenny said no firmly, to that. Mama was asleep and I almost was, when Lyla climbed out of the bed and retrieved her bear, from his lonely corner. I didn’t let on, that I saw it. It is a startling thing to wake with a helium balloon looming over you-but Mama laughed later.
On Sunday, more folks came that loved Brynn-and so she had quite a day. This was Mamas’ first venture out , since Daddy died and we were all glad to have her join us.
It rained the first few days of the week-and at last it got cooler. The floss flowers celebrated by opening their delicate blossoms, with all their heart. The loosestrife is fading fast, but the stalwart rose-of-sharon, still blooms. . .and the wild mulberry is starting to don those bright fuchsia berries along the edge of the young woods. Leaves fall leisurely now revealing empty nests and corn fields are a warm tawny brown. There is a different smell for each season. Early autumn has the smell of leaves and in the country there is a faint smell of smoke, most days.
In the farmhouse and barns, we have always done a thorough cleaning, just as in spring, in the fall. Just knowing shortly, we will be shut up in the house, makes me want everything clean. I started early this year, before there was any chill in the air. As it turns out . . .that was a good thing. I got a call last week from a young man interested in the house. I had been thinking, I would put the house back on the market.
The memory of almost selling the farm, had at last dimmed enough, that I could entertain the notion, again. I still have boxes, awaiting their destiny, to prove the thing happened. Of course, Daddy got sick and had I moved, I would never had been able to be with him and Mama as much, so in some way, I really consider the fiasco a blessing now.
With the farmhouse not getting a bit smaller and the territory not slacking a bit, in its’ needs and me not getting a day younger, the thought had crossed my mind, to sell. The young man and I set an appointment for Sunday. With little Ryans’ first birthday party, scheduled for Saturday (two hours from the rabbitpatch) my work was cut out for me. Thank Goodness, I had started early. Christian and I worked diligently every evening . By the time Mama and I left on Saturday morning, the house was in good order, with very little left to do on Sunday morning.
Ryans’ party was at the beach, where Brant had been working on a cottage this past week. All of the same loved ones were there, from Brynns’ party – and Sydneys’ parents and brother, as well. It was a delightful time without a single dull moment. Brant and Sydney asked us to bring things to fill a “time capsule” for Ryan to open on his eighteenth birthday. It seems so far away, to think of that, but I know it will slip up on us suddenly, in the blink of an eye . . .much like his first birthday. Ryan concluded the celebration with his own little cake to discover. He played in the cake and wasn’t interested in eating it. We all had fancy cupcakes. Tres thought I was quite messy, for he saw icing all over my hands . . . but it was really paint, from my work at the house!
So dear Brynn is two and Ryan is one. . .and it is shocking to me-and more so than my hair, which is the color of a silver dollar, since I left it to its’ own devices! I just had gotten used to the fact, that my own children grew up!
Sunday dawned “bight and beautiful”. Christian and I did some last minute things and by the time the young man came, I was having an afternoon coffee. Several family members came with him, and my heart swelled in gladness that he had them to lend their wisdom. They were a friendly lot and it didn’t hurt one bit, that they liked the rabbitpatch. Time will tell if things work out. It always does.
A lot of things can happen in a week. Sometimes, a week passes in an ordinary fashion. Sometimes, it does not.
My dads’ dog died this past week. It was sudden and unexpected. “Casper’ was a samoyed and though he was eleven years old, he had the face of a puppy-and no ailments.
He was a rascal of a dog. Daddy could hardly work on a motor without Casper peering over his shoulder, for Casper was downright nosey. He was a happy dog and always ready to fetch a ball. He barked whenever anything came up, like lunch or he couldn’t see his folks. We had made sure that Casper and Daddy visited, when Daddy became confined to the bed. Casper loved Daddy and Daddy loved Casper.
When Daddy passed, Casper took on a new mission. He didn’t let Mama out of his sight. I think it is safe to say that Mama likes dogs, but saying she is a “dog lover” would be a stretch. Casper did not take this in to account and went on about his business of being a very devoted guardian and a loyal friend. . . and when he died, Mama cried.
A day or so later, I went to the cemetery with Mama. It was the first time that I had been since Daddy died. Mama tends his grave, lovingly. My sisters have bought flowers and have been more attentive than I have been. They visit the grave regularly. I think now, that I will do better.
Afterwards, Mama and I went to her parents grave, (my “Pop and Grandmama”), then to Aunt Josies’ grave, Aunt Agnes, Mama Hodges, Aunt Virginia until we had seen several generations of our people. It dawned on me, how many loved ones that we had lost. I remembered them all . . . Mama Hodges, sternness-and her pound cakes . . . Merry, flashy Aunt Agnes , quiet ,gentle Aunt Virginia . . . .and I missed all of them, suddenly and deeply. It seemed so long ago, too, longer than it had ever been, since the days we were all together. To their credit, they each, left an impression on me that has not tarnished over the decades. Love is not prone to fade -like old curtains. I realised, that I was still, “living off their love” . . and gratitude washed over me, like rain. Oddly, I did not leave the cemetery, feeling depleted. Instead, I was full of gladness for the gift of my elders.
Since, that day, I have wondered if some of my stubbornness about abandoning the “old ways” might be some sort of tribute to that beloved time. I do think, that a lot of precious things have been discarded, in our haste to do more, go more and have more.
September came and at last, it is a bit cooler. I went to see my little grand daughters. There were at least five dolls sleeping in the guest room, so I had to enter quietly. Lyla and now, Brynn are full time mothers and have “children” to tend to in every room. The minute Lyla is dressed and had breakfast, she makes sure every doll has risen and brushed their teeth, Brynn will use whatever she has at hand for a baby blanket . . .a dish towel suits her just fine. She plops a baby in a little carriage and off she goes strolling the house. Brynn has even convinced her Uncle Tres to hold a doll, tenderly.
I am constantly amused for it is serious business to tend to those dolls.
With a bright day dawning and a slightly cool breeze blowing, all of the dolls were put to bed, one day and we visited with the laughing river, a while. Lyla looks for birds and fairies. Brynn looks for unsuspecting cats. On this walk, Lyla and I talked about old trees and all they offer. I am always in awe of old trees.
On Sunday morning, after breakfast, I stayed in the kitchen. This day, we were going to visit “Aunt J” . Aunt J is Wills’ aunt, but we all claim her. She is a cheerful, thoughtful and generous soul. She is always doing something for others, and so today I would make some dishes, that she especially likes. Lyla was not interested in the pimento cheese or the chicken salad. but when we needed to whip cream for a dessert, she was glad to help.
My friend Elaine, was out strolling with Miss Thelma, that afternoon after the visit with Aunt J. I had a basket of the same fare, I was delivering to Miss Thelma. What a sweet sight it was to see the two of them. There we stood in the sunshine while Lyla danced around the willow tree.
The next day, I came back to the rabbitpatch, where the floss flowers are blooming. The purple loosestrife is blooming too. Around the curve in the garden path, a small sea of pale lavender and periwinkle blossoms greet me. What a lovely pairing of colors, I always think. Further on, the ” Autumn Joy” is shyly sporting pale pink blossoms, which will deepen to burgundy, by October. Morning Glory vines claim every bit of territory, that they can. It is a good thing that I am so fond of them.
September is a lovely time and is like a threshold to that glorious autumn season. Right, when I am sure I am going to wilt in the sweltering southern heat, a September morning will dawn cool . . .and full of morning glory.
Two of my grand children were born in September. Brynn, two years ago, which seems impossible . . and little Ryan a year ago. Brynn is now talking and Ryan is walking. My nephew, Brandon was born in September too-on his dads’ birthday, at that! Brandon and I used to ramble in the woods, looking for old bottles and other relics. It seems that it was just a few years ago, but Brandon, is a young man now-a noble young man, that makes me proud and glad. . . so those walks I remember fondly, happened a long while back.
September is a time to remember. It is a time to “ask for the old paths ” , and to ask “where is the good way” ? It is a time of gratitude for our children , bestowed on us like holy gifts. I know this . . . no matter which direction, I look, backwards or forwards, or sideways at the present . . . my blessings have always been abundant.
Yesterday, much was accomplished at the rabbitpatch. It was the kind of day, that assured good sleep would follow. I like to work. If a task does not present itself, then I seek one out. So far, I rarely have to search long. This day, I decided to unload a small trailer of shingles and old wood. I should have done it, a long time ago. I had to wonder, as I worked, if any other soul in the county, had to do such a thing today.
This was not the kind of work, that I fancy. It was dirty and only God knew what I would find as I lifted each piece of debris. There were also mosquitoes to battle. It did feel good to see the trailer, that belonged to my grandaddy, “Pop” being relieved of its’ overdue burden.
I did not like chores, as a child. Mama laid out the plans for the day and that was that. We never “sassed” for first, sass was considered unholy and there would be swift consequences, as well. Poor Mama. She had to manage three girls. She did not change her expectations because we grew and became teenagers either. If we wanted to be sullen, then we had to do that after chores. We could not make faces that revealed our rebellious thoughts. That was considered a language, as well. While picking beans, in late summer, Mama, once heard me “praying for frost” as I picked beans from those scratchy vines, that green snakes loved to hide in. It was a sin, to be ungrateful apparently, and I got a lecture on that.
Looking back, I got a lot of the “great lessons” in the garden -and at the clothes line. . .or snapping beans. Mama was very good at hard questions. She gave just enough truth to satisfy our curiosity at the moment, without disturbing our innocence.
She taught sweetly and we daughters, hung on every word. Because of that, I was always able to bear my heart to Mama, when it was injured – or to confess when I did something shameful. It is still that way.
It seems to me, that childhood is all its’ cracked up to be. It matters for the rest of our lives, after all. Luckily, I was blessed with parents that did the best that they could. . . and to me, that is enough.
Of course, childhood was revered in those days. We were not exposed to the complicated business of adults. We were allowed instead, that sweet liberty of just being a child.
Now, we were not immune to calamity. We learned about death and grief. We also learned about birth. We were taught to be thrifty, but not selfish. We had to learn self control. Weekly visits to “Mama Hodges” and hour long sermons on Sunday, ensured that lesson. Manners were very important. Good manners indicated two things. First, it let folks know, that you were respectful of them. We wouldn’t have run in a house for love or money and never would an adult stand, while a child sat. We didn’t dare interrupt, while others were speaking . . unless there was immediate danger. (like a fire ) and we would be sure to use kind words, like “please and thank you”. Second, and so beautiful, was good manners meant someone loved you enough, to teach you such things. We practiced good manners right there at home and the elders modeled til at last it was “our nature” to be courteous and thoughtful. . . but maybe the greatest lesson we learned, was the art of being satisfied.
Somehow, my parents were always able to convince us, that we should be content. When I set my heart on some doll or carriage, in that “Sears & Roebuck” catalog . . .well it was fun to dream then, just as it still is now. The only harm in it, is if we base our happiness on acquiring something. In that way, we have declared some “thing”, a remedy, of sorts. I often think now, that if my parents had been indulgent, I would have wound up with some collection of dolls, and never learned to love a one of them.
The more I remembered, the harder I worked, til at last the little trailer was tucked safely under a barn.
Later, I talked to Julie, a dear friend, and told her how I had been recalling my childhood, in every possible moment. She said that she had been doing the same thing. Julie had been “walking through” the old homes of her family, in that endless mind of hers, trying to remember every detail. I thought, I was the only one who did such things. I should have known better for I have never done a thing or had a single thought, that someone has not done or thought before. Julie and I concluded that, all of the change and uncertainty, of the present times, may be what is beckoning us to remember, a gentler time, where things were familiar and dependable. Julie has good sense and is often right.
The cotton fields are blooming. Past the oldest barn, is a small orchard. Beyond that are vast fields of cotton and finally a strip of woodland. It is a lovely view, for the sky is big and in no direction do you see anything made by man. This is where the moon rises and the deer play. It may be my favorite place on the rabbitpatch.
I have adapted to the new way of school. It is hot on that basketball court and I sleep deeply after a day of dancing in the sun, but the children have been wonderful, and what a good job they do, in adhering to all of the rules. I do miss seeing the littlest girls hold hands as they walk to the playground and the boys playing ball. (We are not allowed to use any equipment for play . . .not even a ball.) Now, the boys have organised races and they are quite detailed games. There is also the fort building, in the wooded playground. It has happened every year for as long as I can remember. Children gather every stick they can find and build structures, that soon become kingdoms with occupations and laws.
I come home and I notice that the rabbitpatch is fairly glowing, these days. It is as tidy as it has been in years, though I do still have several small jobs to complete. . . .and of course, the leaves have not even started to fall. A bed of bright yellow calla lilies in full bloom, at the entrance, seem to welcome me.home. In moments, supper will be simmering and Kyle will call to see how my day was, while the boxer sleeps close by. Coming home, is as beautiful, as it sounds.
All I wanted to do was write in my diary this morning. I am working from home on Fridays, this year, and this was the first one of those Fridays, at home.
I rose early enough to see the first light of day. Fog was hanging in silvery ribbons- like remnants from a midnight celebration, over the fields. I love foggy mornings . . if I am at home. Driving in it is another story.
It wasn’t long, before I was at the “morning table” with a cup of coffee, ready to write what has transpired in the ordinary life of a country woman, these last few days. Thankfully, there was nothing of any urgency to report, for there before me was a “new way” of writing on my blog. Is nothing sacred? I wondered. Must everything be complicated? Or am I really that old? I suppose I am.
I had to get a new cell phone last week, as my other one drowned. I can barely answer the new one. School is a whole different ballgame too. It was all so much nicer, when I used to use a phone with ease, and work in my familiar way . . and write from that dreamy place that writers slip in to. I miss “old hat”.
Gradual changes are one thing, but being shocked in to change is about as pleasant as having a bucket of cold water tossed on you. . . and these days, change has ramped up and is constant.
I accept change much more gracefully, when it is necessary. I understand with all of my heart, the altered ways of life with covid. I practice my safety and the safety of others with diligence and I do not complain. I have learned how to shop on line for groceries. . . but my writing . . for goodness sakes that ought not to have been tampered with, as well.
I am adjusting to the new way of teaching music. My classes are outside, unless it rains. In that case, we head to the gym. The heat is awful, but being outside is the safest place to be. I work from home on Mondays and Fridays. That is why, I was on the territory at the slowly cracking dawn.
Here and there the purple loosestrife is just starting to open and the floss flowers are donning a tiny flower occasionally. The cherry tree is almost bare of leaves. The stalwart phlox and likewise, the rose-of-Sharon still bloom . the rudbekia is in its’ glory. The roses are not.
I went out to hang clothes on the line, and was greeted by a female cardinal. She perched on the line and seemed startled to see me. Off she went in to the late August sky without a proper good bye. . .a flash of red in the gray sky, like a parting prize, I thought.
I was always melancholy, as a child, in August. Back then, school opened just after labor day and continued til just before Memorial Day. My sister and I always got new shoes, a book bag and a new coat. We got several new dresses and school supplies. Nothing would cheer me. I never wanted to go back. I loved the farm and the folks I had to leave. School seemed artificial-detached from real life. I was a good student and had a lot of friends, but town smelled funny to me and there was hardly a tree on the grounds. The playground did not perk me up a bit, for it was an uninteresting place, full of tame equipment. It lacked the luster of huge shady grapevines, to play under and the cafeteria did not smell like Grandmas’ kitchen.
There wasn’t a dog lying around anywhere-nor any animal . . .and why would there be, without a barn in sight. I was “homesick”, I realise now.
In the afternoon, I was sure that schoolbus took the longest way home.
Oh how good to run in the door of “home”- where Mama was starting supper. The country air smelled like tobacco drying, mingling with scent of slightly over ripe apples. The ponies were in the pasture and a dog waited faithfully for us to change in to play clothes. This world made good sense to me. Within a short while, the cousins came and the neighbors , the Purvis boys too. We played til dusk, when Aunt Josie would call Chuck and Chris in for supper and homework. Mama would chime in from our own door, “Suppers’ ready!” Often, Aunt Agnes would call looking for Faith, about that time. Faith would always say ” I am not doing my homework,” and I bet she didn’t! Ruby, Christine and Cookie mounted bikes and the Purvis boys, walked as they lived just beyond the curve, which wasn’t far.
Well those evenings were many moons ago, but the memories of them always flash in my mind, in late summer, when the world is drowsy, and only the dragonflies are not.
I have just never been good at saying good bye to something beautiful.
With school starting on Monday, I had a nice long visit planned to Elizabeth City. I left on Thursday. It had seemed like “a month of Sundays” since I had been last.
Before I knew it, I was in the quiet village by the laughing river. The crepe myrtles were blooming along the streets and the magnolias still had blooms, though they were sparse. I was sad to see the place by the old bridge where the “lemonade stand” used to be, was vacant – but of course, things are different now.
Lyla and Brynn danced around for ten minutes. when I came in. . . I did too. Lyla told me her heart had “nearly cracked” due to my long absence.
Every day was sultry with showers that popped up in the blink of an eye. One day, Lyla and I made brownies. One day, Lyla asked to listen to Andrea Bocelli and that made my heart fill with gladness. . . and one day, Lyla and I took a walk. It was hot in the sunshine, but there was a good breeze, and in the shade, it was delightful. We stopped to visit with Tres and later ended up at our rock. Several little boys were fishing for “snakes and sharks” there, so we did not dare interrupt that business. Lyla said the river was happy, that day . .. and she was right. Oh, how good such golden moments are.
Now little Brynn, is a lovely, cherub like child. She too, loves dolls and her kitchen. Besides that, she is as busy as can be discovering all sorts of things. She scampers by at an endearing trot ,with curls bouncing, on some mission or another -and quite merrily. She is liable to be anywhere, but if the gate to the stairs is unlocked. . . well, she heads north! and so there is , a wild scramble amongst us and vows are made to do better with that gate. When Brynn says “Honeybee”. . . in that little tinkling voice . . I fall hopelessly, head over heels -again.
Little Ryan is walking! Sydney sent us videos, so we could see for ourselves. Jenny and I were both moved to tears. We could not decide, who was cuter Ryan or Brant, for the look on Brants’ face, was pure joy, when Ryan walked in to his arms. How beautiful it was to see . . and to share it with Jenny . . .and Tres was coming for supper. What beauty, I have in life.
I have heard that kings count their money in a storehouse. I would just as soon count my wealth, strolling by a “happy river” , for that is how I measure riches. On paper. I may be a pauper . . . . but that is the only place.
Now, school starts on Monday, and I do have a job to return to. My schedule is altered, so I will work from home some-and on campus other days too. Most of my work will be outside, for I will do the usually end of the year dance semester, at the beginning. This is the safest way to teach, I think. I have been ransacking my closet for the coolest clothes to wear, as the August heat can be brutal. I still need to look professional as I am quite old fashioned, on that subject, so what a quandary!
Our beloved Champ died on Tuesday. We knew he wasn’t well and would pass soon. Tres and Christian, “Champs’ boys” were with him. They buried him in the rose garden, (that I call the “Quiet Garden” , in memory of a favorite author of mine, Gladys Taber). It was a somber day for all of us. Champ finished his season, on this earth, leaving us all better off than we were, before him. He was as loyal a dog as I have ever known.
Christian has a makeshift studio in the oldest barn, and would practice at night, often quite late. Champ would not come in the house, til Christian did . . .even if it were raining. When Tres came home, Champ was beside himself with sheer happiness. No matter, if Tres was engaged in conversation, or changing the oil in a truck, Champ would sit faithfully, with his eyes on my son.
We are a dog loving lot and so every one of us mourns along with Tres and Christian.
True, faithful friends come to us, more seldom than we think. Time has a way of teaching us this sad truth. Champ never compromised one iota on his faithfulness. If we failed him in any way, he did not hold it against us. He loved in a truly unconditional way, something humans can rarely do, honestly. Champ did a lot more than just being a “companion”. . .Champ was our friend.