Autumn Is a Time to Remember


 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cakes and Other Nice Things


 

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.  
 

 

 

 

No Matter What Direction


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.  
 
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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Great Lessons”


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.

 

August Then . . and Now


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.

A Sweet Reunion and Some Sorrow


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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.

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 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.

 

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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! 

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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.
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Before and After a Hurricane


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On Monday. we spent the whole day, preparing for bad weather.  The kitchen table was laden with candles, water, snacks and flashlights.  Over the years, we adopted this habit of supplies being in one place.  I had made cookies on a whim and cooked a big supper . . .just in case.
Things liable to fly, were all secured ourside.  Whether Isias was a tropical storm or a hurricane, when it arrived, we were prepared.  I was especially glad that Tres was here. 
It was midnight when a powerful wind showed up.  It had rained off and on, earlier.  The air had cooled, but it was the wind that changed everything.  None of us could sleep once that wind blew.  It was mighty and relentless and reminded you that , though some like to think it, humans are not in control of everything.  We will and always have been at the mercy of nature. 
There were so many sounds that night.  Thuds and snapping and cracking-you had to wonder.  I know well, the sound of a tree falling.  I did not hear that, but the roaring of the wind muffled the world outside.  The power went out around four am.    I armed with a flashlight and my devoted dog, opened the back door to peer out.  All I saw were branches, huge ones that blocked the view.  I could make out that that the sycamores were upright.  That was something.  I heard generators starting up and regretted, again, that I didn’t have one. 
The wind died down within the hour, and so at last, we all slept.
When light came, I woke as usual.  I was really tired, but my curiosity spurred me on to rise.  Two large limbs about blocked the back door .  The territory was strewn with  branches, but every tree stood proudly.   . .and wonder of wonders , , so did the oldest barn.  
I started picking up debris, shortly after.  Pecan branches, full of young green nuts, and the sweetgum branches, robbed of  autumn glory were everywhere.  Tres came next and got the massive sycamore limbs removed.  Christian came next and carried the sick dog, “Champ” out to watch.  It seemed to perk him up a bit.   The last vet visit, confirmed what I had feared.  Further testing revealed, that Champ was in his last weeks of life.  
One Christmas eve, as it sleeted, Tres came in the door with a tiny pup, peeking out from under his coat.  I said immediately, “Please, tell me this is not your puppy.”  But it was.  Tres said “Mom, I will be responsible.”  That never crossed my mind, for I KNEW, I would be the one, that would fall on.  Tres went on to say, that he had rescued the pup from a neglectful breeder.  The puppy was the runt of a litter, and shivering in the sleet.  Tres was upset and mildly,  but sternly admonished the young breeder.  Tres was told that if he was so worried, then to take the puppy. . . .and so he did.  
Champ was adorable.  He looked like “the Buster Brown dog” and had such a quirky personality.  If a stranger (o him) came in, he would gather his toys, carry them to his bed and lay on them!  
True to his word, Tres was responsible. Champ was entirely devoted to Tres and cried if he were left with me.  Years passed,  Tres   had trained Champ with diligence and it showed up.  When Tres moved to Wilmington, he could not take Champ.  Champ pined, but eventually, loved Christian too.  Champ settles for me,  if need be, but he loves his boys.  
I did not do my fair share of work, that day.  I lacked the vitality, the task called for and the lack of sleep, did not help. The weather was beautiful, but there was no way of knowing, how anyone else fared.  I knew my family was all fine, but Mama did not have power either.  
By mid afternoon, the place was almost tidy.  We kept expecting the power to come back on, but it never did.  We cleaned up with baby wipes, which was the only option.  I do not know how, Abraham Lincoln read by oil lamps and candle light, for I couldn’t make out a thing!  Christian played the piano for a long while . . in the dark!   The sound, wafted throughout the old farmhouse and I imagined all sorts of things as he played.  That was nice.
663cadedff2bf635aaef95766472cabc (1)On Wednesday morning, the territory was covered in a fine mist.  I woke early and drank yesterdays’ coffee.  Other than, the power rendering the window fan silent and still, there was no sign a hurricane had been through,  
 When the power came on around mid morning, I rejoiced!  The refrigerator came on, the window fan came on and now we had water!!   It is the same every time.  . .such a celebration ensues, when the power is restored.

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I did not grow up with hurricanes . . .I grew up hearing about a particular one, named “Hazel”, from hearing the elders talk about it.  Some folks would argue and plead now, that there were hurricanes, in the past, just not labeled as such, but not according to the history of North Carolina.  I know that we never went without power, nor were schools closed.   The first hurricane I ever experienced was  as a young newlywed .   . .nearly forty years ago.  These days, I expect several a season.   I thought of this as I returned everything we had  left, to the supply shelf.  
Mama finally got power in the afternoon, but I heard many folks were still waiting.  
School starts in just a few weeks.  Our school will offer remote learning but, those who wish, may attend.  It seems now, that I will return to work.  With that in mind, I must make the most of the remainder of my time.  I plan to spend some more time with the grandchildren, for I can never get enough.  Lyla will not be attending kindergarten this year, and thankfully so.  
When I am not galavanting down the highways, I will spend my time, listening to  the morning song of the cicadas.   . . and watching the time when the territory becomes all shades of purple.  It seems everything that blooms in August,  on the rabbitpatch is some hue of purple, from violet to fuchsia to periwinkle.  Clumps of floss flower are claiming every corner they can find and how spectacular it will be in due time.    August is a hot month, but it is more than just a stepping stone to September . . .and it is always full of butterflies.

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To Raleigh and Back


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It is said, that “All good things must come to an end”.  That was certainly my sentiment on Tuesday, when I watched Jenny pack up her familys’ things .  All sorts of pictures from the last four days flashed in my head . . . Jenny and Sydney with Brynn and Ryan, sitting on a quilt in the shade of a maple . . . Will working from the kitchen table, oblivious to the commotion of three little ones, big meals, bathtime and early mornings, watching one by one, as folks came down stairs to find their day.  It does not matter how long we are together, I am just never satisfied.  I always wish for one more day.  
I came home on Wednesday.  Oh how quiet the house was that day, as I gathered my own things.  It was a bright day and a bit cooler than the days before it.  The last ten days had been miserably hot.  The drive is much easier for me, now and within a few hours, I was back at the rabbitpatch.  Christian and Tres were there, and so I started supper right away.  The boxer was happy to see me and I was glad to see him.  While supper cooked, I sat in the den surrounded by my plants and books.  The morning table stood faithfully waiting, by the window with the old oak peaking in.  I felt like I was in the midst of friends, and that was comforting . . . and beautiful, really.  
I called Mama, to let her know I had arrived safely.  As old, as I am, she still wants to know. There are some. very few things that   do remain the same, in life.   Mama is making the best of the situation.  She misses Daddy deeply-and how could she not?  Her neighbors do all sorts of things to help out.  My cousins, have taken charge of all the yard work-and then there are her friends. Sadly, three of them are widowed now, all in the last year or so.  What a comfort they are.  No matter what anyone does, Mama has had to adjust to a new way of life and of course, that in itself is at times, overwhelming.  Nothing is as it was . . .or easy.  The good news is, Mama is doing what she can to “stay the course”.    . .We all are.

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Tres has been with me a few days now.  He is on a break from school, til the next semester starts.  His dog has lived at the rabbitpatch, a few years and is sadly not doing well.  Tres had a trip planned  to the coast, to visit his best friend  and Sarah -but now there is a hurricane expected to come through in a few days!  I just found out a day ago and so I have taken inventory of the supply shelf.  We are fine, but will need to secure, everything outside that is not nailed down.  It is quite early for a hurricane, but it has felt like September, the last few days, as the air has been cooler and dryer – and the floss flowers are trying to bloom, too! 
This year has thoroughly disoriented me!  School closed in March and the pandemic descended, Daddy died in April, there was a frost in May!!  The way we do things have been altered drastically, – the unrest of society . . .and an early hurricane too! – And the subjects we must ponder . . .a cashless society?  for example.  “Old people” have always been accused of “not keeping up with change”.    I “wear that same hat”  now , for I am most certainly, one of  them. 

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The days before a hurricane are full of anticipation.  We all listen to the many updates and track the storm fervently.  We go over supplies repeatedly.  We  must anticipate losing power and roads being closed.  Country folks worry about such things especially, for there are trees every where likely to tumble.  . .andwe are always last on the list of assistance from the county.   It will be the farmers that clear our roads.   We do not usually have to worry about major flooding, for though creeks may rise, they do not  cause the same predicament that rivers do.  
Once “Farm Life” went without power about two weeks.  A lot of folks have generators . . .but of course, the rabbitpatch does not.  I hung a water  hose, in the “Quiet Garden”, for there is a fence around it covered in roses, deeming it private.  We showered there.  Food was cooked on a grill, twice a day.  I set up a place to wash clothes.  I had a tub for soaking, one for washing and one for rinsing.  It took all day for them to dry for I could never wring them out efficiently.  I will never forget the day the power company trucks rode by,  A lot of us were working in our yards and we all cheered at the sight of them.  
Other times, hurricanes passed without too much ado.  . . A few days of wind and rain.  If heavy rains come first, then the chances of downed trees increases dramatically.  I always  pray for my trees, in their presence , before a hurricane.  
A leaning pine was here, when I first moved to the rabbitpatch.  It was growing on the edge of the young woods.  It was dreadful to see.  Everyone that came here, encouraged me to cut it down.  I can’t even cut a Christmas tree and so the thing remained.  It was a tall tree and there was a stable and a chicken coop, that were dangerously close.  Everyone said I would lose one or the other, when it fell.  It was very likely.  There was one place the pine could fall, which would spare both-just a sliver of open space.  I talked to God about it.  I asked Him, “why couldn’t I be a normal person, instead of caring about an unsightly leaning pine.”  Certainly, life would be so much easier, if my heart were not so soft, I thought.  I do not have a bit of mercy for poison vines, nor the awful thorned ones, but the pine had yet to harm a living soul.
  As a storm approached, one year, I had an idea, that the pine would not make it.  I was right.  The pine fell neatly between the two structures, again not harming a soul.  You can draw your own conclusions, but that is exactly what happened.
I have also entertained the thought, that one of the old warriors will land smack on the house.  How God works, is His business, after all.  Faith does not spare any of us from tragedy.  If it did, you could sell it like hotcakes-but instead, Faith is a comfort, you have in spite of hard times.  It is knowing,  that we are not in this alone.  I have had my fair share of calamity.  Even now, I do not understand what I was supposed to glean from some of them.  My mind is either too dull, or very slow, probably . . .and sometimes, I think . .”maybe it was not about me!”  Someone else may have gained some value from the whole affair -and I just happened to be there, as well.  
For now, this morning is bright and slightly cooler.  All of the sheets are line drying.  The sick dog is not any better.  I have made chicken and rice-and scrambled eggs, but he fancied neither. The good, local veterinarian  prescribed more medicine, yesterday, so maybe “Champ” will  show improvement, shortly.  
Since, it is a fruitless time to do any yard work, I will concentrate on housekeeping, for the next day or so.   . . and just like Mama . . “Stay the course.

Remembrances from Raleigh . . ..

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“Things Happen in Threes” . . or More


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Sometimes, you have to “grin and bear it”.  That has been the case, for a solid week, at the rabbitpatch. 
I was leaving on Monday, for Raleigh.  I was going so I could help Brant and Sydney, care for our very precious “Ryan”.  Sydney works from home and besides , with their recent move, they are still “setting up housekeeping’.  I was packed and ready, when the refrigerator stopped working.  What a predicament!  It is no small thing, when that appliance stops.  Christian and I were scrambling . . but we  ended up losing the milk, anyway.  We were low on cold groceries, but I was due to pick up an order the next morning. 
A  simple phone call landed me a used refrigerator.  . . to be delivered the next day. I called Sydney and post poned the trip a day.  Later on, I told Christian to move my car, as the delivery , would be so much easier .  The problem was now . . . that the car wouldn’t start.   What is next, I thought, for “things really do happen in threes” .  It didn’t take long, to find out.
This all happened on July fourteenth, I remember it well for I needed to mail my state tax  payment.  I had to refile my taxes this year, for apparently, my returns got lost when they were filed in March.  I decided, on a whim to call the IRS and make sure, that they had received my taxes, this time.  . . of course, they had not.  A very kind agent assisted me, and I am sure she heard the quiver in my voice, for the last folks I want to have trouble with is the IRS.  I wanted to tell her that the refrigerator had quit on me -and the car -but decided against it.  She would just have to think me “fragile” or worse . . .”unstable”.  Really I was both, at that moment.
Thirty long minutes later, the agent cheerfully announced that she did indeed, find those awful papers.  I ran to the mailbox repeating, “at least that is over.” It was not even noon!   

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Christian reported that  it was the battery on the car.  He jump started it and so I thought that I would need to think about that later.  The task at hand, was too move the broken refrigerator out -and the kitchen table.  I scrubbed everywhere and everything in that kitchen, as well.  Before the floor was dry, the truck pulled up with the refrigerator.  
The thing was older than I had expected and like me, “not much to look at”, but it was cold within moments and that mattered most, at the moment.  With the kitchen clean and orderly, and put back together, I noticed the long, slanted, golden ribbons of sunshine spilling through the windows . . .it was suppertime.
That night, I also found out that there was a possibility, that my job as a music teacher, was a bit in jeopardy.  By this time, I had exceeded, the “things happen in threes ” theory .  The refrigerator was purring softly,  though and  I could come by a battery  for the car, I reminded myself, but what a complicated day it had been!
When I was a child, and some disappointment came along, I would run to the nearest elder and give them the details of my latest plight. There was a wide range of calamities from a lost doll shoe to the wayward behavior  of a naughty cousin. Many times I would be told to “grin and bear it” -and rather flippantly, I thought.  The elders would go about their business, leaving me to my own devices to solve the matter.  I was not coddled in that way.  Comfort would come later, usually after supper, when we all tended to reflect on our day.  Many times, I had forgotten by then, what ever was the matter .   Other times, the direness of the situation had diminished altogether. How beautiful, I think now, for in this way, I developed the confidence and fortitude, that would become mighty handy skills to have in life.  The elders were always right.  How good that I had such a childhood, I always think. . .every  single time I remember.

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That night, I wondered about my future.  The battery and the refrigerator purchases would  surely strain my shoestring budget and what if I faced unemployment-and at my age, especially?  Oddly, even this did not make me feel desperate nor hopeless.  There is a “peace that passes understanding.”   
I have finally realised,  that the odds do not hinder God.  Things may looks complicated and chaotic to me, but I do not need understanding  so to make sense of things, nor “the wisdom of Solomon” to find solutions  . .what I need is Faith.  Looking back, this has  always rang true .  . .and the many accounts are tenderly, etched in my heart.  My role is and has always been, is to do my best and trust.
Sadly, I have failed at this on occasion.  I walked on with faltering stride and cumbersome burdens, but declaring  that “God was with me”. ( It makes me to shudder to reflect on that. )   The good news, is that even  with such feeble attempts I was rewarded .  God did not alter His purpose for me due to my shortcomings.  He was close as could be, round the shady crevices and in the “tight spots”.

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In light of my remembrances of decades past, I  knew that in one way or another, things would work out.  I decided to make a batch of brownies and  then packed a bag for a trip to Raleigh, for we had planned a small gathering, months ago.  We would celebrate the new home on “Hamlet Green”  and I would have all three grandchildren together.  That meant everything.
July is swiftly slipping by  as steadily as a silver river.  The sultry days turn in to sultry nights and it is now that “white moths are on the wing”.  The blackeyed Susans brighten a corner of the yard like another sun -and the watery lavender buds of the greedy loosestrife  lie in wait, for August.  Gardens are in their prime and red tomatoes are served at most every meal, in some form.  Farmers are on alert for those evening storms that pop up in months like July.  Hail is a dreaded component that can ruin prospects in a few moments. 
Farmers are stalwart folks and can not afford to be lazy, any day.  They must be a “jack-of all- trades”, too, for there are all sorts of chores that range from mechanics to tilling soil.  A  farmer  must pay close attention to the signs of nature, and  realises in youth , that he is dependent on  Nature therefore, a very intimate bond is  forged.    When I used to frequent   groceries, I never failed to think of those that tended the land as well as the agricultural workers who harvest the crops.  Anybody that eats anything, would do well, to do the same.

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My packing was finished and the brownies were cooling, when the internet went out.  I called and was put on a list with  folks having the same problem.  It was expected to take a week, to restore service.  I lost the original post . . . and the next one.  It was awful.  When I lose the car keys, well, I know they will turn up, but losing my writing, felt like losing a part of me. 
Now this was a week ago , and I am still unsettled with that same notion.  I probably did not have a single brilliant line written, for I never do, but  how I mourn for those  thoughts . . .at any rate, I am in Raleigh now, with my grandchildren and having a lovely time.

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At the Rabbitpatch . . .and Beyond


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July arrived and with it came fireworks . . .and sultry days.  Right when I am sure, I can not bear the heat of a day, clouds come up and sprinkle a cool shower.  This convinces me to muster the grace, a southerner  needs in  months like July.   . .the  window fan, does too.  
I have been home a few days now.   . .long enough to know where the fawn lays.  Though, I  am liable to surprise him in the early morning-and again at noon, he does not scurry in haste.  I have not seen him sauntering around the yard, recently but it has been a pleasure to catch glimpses of him in the young woods.  
I am breaking all the rules instilled in me, as a child, when it comes to taking to the woods in July.  I spent a good deal of my youth rambling in woods . . .but not in the late spring or summers.  There were poisons of all sorts, and ticks, redbugs and snakes.  There were hornets and ground bees -and we children were all warned, sternly about such calamities.  It took a hard frost for the  woodland ban to be lifted.
I can not help but feel a bit guilty for not heeding my elders . . .even now, and find myself thinking of them all as I work. 
The path I am working on is  wide and grassy.  Sunlight falls lovingly, in bright patches along the way.  Birds are constantly tattling on my whereabouts,  as I  try to tame the wild vines.  I have seen several dens of small creatures as  I work, in the first light.  I know a good many of them are rabbits, and surely there is an opossom or two. A few years ago I saw a raccoon.    . .and the wild mulberry is everywhere.  How lovely it will be in September.
I always feel like I am in another world, when I am in a patch of woods. Things that matter so very much, outside of the woods, aren’t  even relevant  .   . .in the woods.  Trees do not gossip, nor hold grudges.  . .and they have always kept my secrets.  When I was young, it didn’t matter that I had freckles,  and it does not matter today, that my hair is silvering.   Trees are not “fair weather friends”.  

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Yesterday, I did not work.  I just did not want to be hot, tired and dirty by eight am, and  the rainy forecast gave me permission, to indulge .  I stayed busy, for I have been researching the genealogy of my very Irish family.  I have gone as far back as the first generation born in America.  What lovely names I am finding, such as “Elizabeth Snow, Aqua Belle  and Kissie- and then there is “Sarah Asabella Ann”!  The men have names like “Julian, Whit and Force”!  I just wished the names were spelled the same in official records  consistently -and that folks didn’t start using their middle names at random times.  It makes the task difficult, but I have fallen in love with these folks. They do not feel like strangers, though  I can not explain it.  I imagine Johnston and Kissie coming here, young and hopeful. They have a son, named Benjamin, who married Nancey C . . .my great x 3 grandparents.   Apparently, the Irish are as tribal as you have heard, for they all married Irish.  Only  three cousins died young, I suspect from illness, but it is early in the study of my dads’ ancestry, and who knows what awaits.  At least, for now, there is no record of anyone so much as stealing an egg!

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I have seen butterflies this week.  I have only seen but a few fluttering around  the phlox, but, I like to see such business.  I also had the first ripe peach of the season, one day.  Both peaches and apples are  a light yield  this year.  There isn’t a single pear, but one of the fig trees is laden.   . .as are the grapevines.   I am still faithfully practicing social distancing and  so I have time to notice such things.
With schools having closed in March, and that running in to the summer, well . . I had forgotten this kind of life.  The kind of life that allows sheets to line dry, and flower beds to be maintained and leisure suppers . . and a cooked breakfast.   . .and talking to Mama on a Tuesday morning. 
I have never understood the theory that there is “nothing to running a home” .  Many are under the impression that it is dull job and requires minimal ability.  I suspect, the folks saying such a thing, have never attempted it.  There is a lot to do and  truthfully, a lot less to it now,  for me, than when the children were little, but somehow, I  still manage to stay busy.  . .of course I do live in a very  old house . . .on an almost uncivilized rabbitpatch.
 There is an art to housekeeping, even now, when we have modern conveniences. and it is an especially noble work, for the whole family benefits from it.   I can not imagine the substance of   the folks, before us, like my “Grandma Kissie”.  I bet she would have been thrilled to have a can of peas!  -and carrots, that she did not dig!

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As I write in my beloved rabbitpatch diary, I realise that  an account of my own days, tells a story as true as it can be . . but beyond the rabbitpatch, lies another tale.
I used to say that “Farm Life” saw the world changing and just did not participate.  That impression has remained.  Neighbors here, still bring sweet corn and pies to one another.  If a tree goes down in your yard, it is tended to in a group effort.  Keys were left in cars, in case someone needed to use it.  It gives me great pleasure to write such things . . .and living on a rabbitpatch, nestled in this place, is  certainly a beautiful  and gratifying experience.  I want my heirs to know this and so I keep a record.  I have also, always hoped that this diary might inspire readers in some way.  I do not expect it to change the world, but maybe, it could change a moment, for someone.  
So, beyond the rabbitpatch, things are happening, that I can not fathom.   . .and opinions about it are a dime a dozen.  It is a sad state of affairs, no matter what .  No one can say anything “right” these days and judgement comes swiftly and harshly.  Fear and desperation are very conducive to poor behavior, in general. Even the best of us , will fall under these conditions.  To say that I am concerned, is a feeble statement for I am heartbroken, really.  I am stunned to find us in such a predicament, as well.  I am always the last to know anything, but I declare,it seems now, that the world is  rushing at an alarming pace to more chaos.  I so wish, we would slow down enough to collect our thoughts and seek reconciliation to all the various dividing  factors. 
One thing I am sure of is that pandemics and politics do not pair well. – And I also am sure, like Tennyson, that . . .”More things are wrought by prayer, than this world dreams of.”  

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“The Country Goes to Town” … Again!


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You must get up mighty early, these days to see the sunrise.  . .but it is well worth the effort.  It is a holy time for me, when the light comes to the world, whether it it is blinding and joyful or shy and gentle.  Either way, the light proclaims, a new chance  for us. 
The contents of a day, can vary greatly. . .and not all are filled with pleasantries, but many are.  Most often, there is something to be glad about and most often, we needn’t “break a sweat” finding it.  More than ever, we must strive for hopeful things.
We must seek balance.  
Currently, with the whole planet, unsteady, I have thought a lot about this subject.  I have noticed, in the last decade, long before  this pandemic-(that I never imagined) that society in general seemed to be getting further and further away from authenticity.    In some way, we were already donning masks.  We were also already building  fortresses, which hid our truths.  No one wanted to admit they were older or made  just an average salary.  We validated our faults, instead of owning them and  striving to improve ourselves.  What a fruitless and tiring and complicated way of living.  Because we know, we can  not trust our own motives, we are  also, now a suspicious lot, as well.   
Now the present circumstances are trying, for all of us.  The headlines are always grim.   . . and what is yet to come, many fear.  I so wished I had a remedy for all-but I “know” less now than ever and  I realise  that   fully since the “shock” never gets chance to wear off.  In such conditions, I must cling to what  few things I have found steadfast -and “doctor” my self.
 In light of this,I make it my business to  fill my heart with all the goodness I can.  As a prime example, the neighbors have the loveliest  Mimosa tree blooming.  It is as happy a shade of  pink as I have ever seen.  I have several myself, on the rabbitpatch, but none that delightful color – and they all perfume, the evening air, til I scarce want to go in.  I always linger til the first stars appear.  The splendor of star shine has not diminished nor has the golden light of the moon that cracks through  the darkness of night.  
Every day I wander around the territory hunting thorned vines and poison ivy.  I am scratched up and have blisters on my hands, for I never come up short, on my hunt.  I have stepped in yet another hill of fire ants . . .but I  also came across a butterfly bush, in one of the far corners , blooming its’ heart out.  Now, because of that solitary thing of beauty, that “far corner” has become a destination, in my traipsing.  
The oldest barn has a bay that  leads to several small stables.  The boxer and I were walking through  early one morning, when we both heard a “tinkling sound”.  It reminded me of a small music box.  The boxer looked up-and was on high alert . . so I did too.  There, peeking over the top of a nest made of mud, was the  sweetest little face!  How could I have forgotten the return of  the darling swallows?   I appreciate the common swallows that brighten my walk.  Swallows do not have the best reputation, for they are liable to swoop at anyone, who dares to get near their nests . . .but they mate for life, and return dependably, to the same place each year to raise their brood.  The swallows and I are on good terms and  so they cheerfully allow me to adore their family. 
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The “country went to town again”, for on Sunday, I left for Raleigh.  The rabbitpatch was tidy, and I fixed several dishes for Christian and a cake, so he wouldn’t starve.  (I can not stop myself from this practice.)
Sydney has mostly worked from home, since Ryan was born-and then the pandemic.  There was a meeting she needed to attend in person, on Monday, hence my visit.  Of course,  I was happy to go and not even the drive hindered my enthusiasm.  8843bbd5c86b05231644af31c1e2b344
I stayed til Thursday.  Ryan was as bonnie as ever.  He is a calm, happy child and so loving.  I took him on several strolls.  Once we got caught in a sudden rain.  The cool drops fell on us and we neither minded.  One day, we climbed several hills, on our stroll.  The sunshine was hot, when we traveled the unshaded  patches of sidewalks.  The humidity was low, that day and so the sky was especially blue.  I never see a soul in the yards, and I wondered for a short while, if we were the only ones left in the world.  But there, in the far distance, I caught  a glimpse of a dog walker, and so that which I imagined, was not the case. 
Sydneys’ mom, came for a visit and how good it was for us to dote on little Ryan, together.  She stayed with me, while Sydney was at the meeting.  Between the two of us, Ryan was content and dry when his mom arrived home. 
Each evening, we all enjoyed a meal together.  I tried to fix dishes, that I knew were their favorites.  Sydney got her macaroni & cheese, Brant got his brunswick stew and we all enjoyed brownies – both, chocolate and strawberry batches.
One day, it was Thursday, and so I collected my things and left at mid afternoon.  It was a beautiful day -clear and bright.  I tucked a picture of Ryan sleeping contentedly in his mothers’ arm, deep in my heart , to savor on the trip home.

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I did something brave . . .for this “scared rabbit” anyway . . .I took a different route home!- and lived to tell about it!  That awful twisting turning detour was still in place, and I had heard Sydney talk about driving through a town called Zebulon.  and there at the intersection, just before the road construction, was a sign marking the road to Zebulon.  The GPS simply said “Drive ten miles” and did not seem alarmed in the least.  Ten miles later, I was on the highway to the “rabbitpatch”.   
Christian had made a pot of coffee, to welcome me home and the boxer pranced about, as we carried things in.  I looked around the tidy yard and noticed the lilies were blooming    – and the roses had clearly caught a “second wind”.
After supper, the boxer and I took a walk around the territory.  I spied a little, spotted  fawn .  He was walking around the yard as if he too was taking account of  such an evening.  I hushed the boxer, and he became as still as a  statue.   The fawn showed no sign of distress and did not hurry on his way back to the young woods.  I was sure his mother watched in terror, from the shadows. 
The corn had grown a least a foot, I noticed and the cotton field was green with plants in neat rows.  How lovely, it all looked in the amber rays of the sunset.   . . ‘  . . .even the very old and shabby barn .  

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A Time to Remember


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I drove back to the rabbitpatch on Saturday . . in the rain.  I had been away a full week, and was only home several days, before that.  The rain was light and did not hinder me.  I always think of Mama, when I am driving in rain, for Mama loves to “ride in rain”.
Besides knowing the rabbitpatch was bound to need tending, besides missing my  son, Christian-and the boxer, it was Fathers’ Day on Sunday.  Mama and I had made plans to share a meal, as this was the first observance since Daddy passed in April.
April seems like yesterday . . .and sometimes it seems like  years ago.  I think of Daddy  all the time.  I thought of him at the beach, last week.  I think of him when I am watching birds – or the grandchildren.  He seems to be alive in my thoughts and I am likely to say “Isn’t the day so beautiful, Daddy?” as I am hanging clothes on the line.  I feel like he is with me and that death could not part us . . . but Fathers’Day  will not allow me to saunter through the day without  facing the harsh truth  . .that Daddy really died.  
I planned the meal carefully, of Mamas’ favorite dishes, omitting any reminders of what Daddy would have wanted.  Maybe next year, we will be able to eat barbecue . . .but this year we are having ham and potato salad, garden peas and cheese biscuits.  

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If you have ever had a loss, then you know that the first year of holidays, is always the hardest.  Knowing this fully, I made up my mind, to rise with gladness on Sunday and start cooking, which is a favorite hobby for me.  That worked for at least a few minutes.  It didn’t help, that large and slow drops of rain fell, outside.  I tried to console myself, remembering that Daddy was well, now and not suffering . .that  I had  my Daddy for sixty-one years and that he was now, in the Presence of God,  for “goodness sakes!”  It did comfort me to consider all of that, but I did not ponder a single thing as I peeled the potatoes.
While everything cooked, I toured the rabbitpatch. The Cape Jasmine is in full bloom.  I intend to root some of them, this year,  It was not a good year for irises, but the hydrangeas are beautiful   The  territory is as green as it has ever been, on this first day of summer.  Along the edge of the woods, the rose-of Sharons bloom and the so do the fragrant butterfly bushes.  There were also the wild honeysuckle vines cascading  their delightful tendrils of blossoms.  The boxer stopped whenever I did, to look closely at a blossom, but his eyes darted here and there-on high alert . . . just in case, a wild rabbit dared cross our path.
I love dogs-but mine especially.  Cash is as loyal a friend, as can be.  He does not care about trends or pomp or status . . .or any of the trivial things, that humans tend to dwell on.   . .therefore, he does not wear clothes or have his nails painted.  I like dogs, just the way they are, as he likes me the same way.  He does not care, that I am letting my silver hair shine or that my skin is weathering daily.  He does not base his admiration for me on my salary, nor have an opinion  about my faults.  A dog just loves and serves . . .and they are good company.

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When the caramel apple cobbler was ready , I left for Mamas’.  I know that everyone will be  as pleased, as I was, that we had a delightful visit and it seemed to be, it was just what we both needed.  After supper, we strolled around the yard to look at her flowers.  I do not know if this is a southern custom or a “ladies custom” but I remember as a child, walking with Mama and Grandmama to see my great grandmothers’,  flowers,whom we called “Mama Hodges-at the close of every spring and summer visit.  I did not like the walk as a child, for Delores and I had to stay within their sight at all times so we had to abandon any form of mischief.  But . .  We also needed to stay out of earshot , so we could not hear the hushed tones of the women. As Mama and I walked around her yard, I remembered those days , now with fondness.

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The first days of summer are wonderful.  The June flowers are in their glory and oh how, they sweeten the air – and there are fireflies twinkling in the evening.  More and more, the stars  increase in numbers and the smell of charcoal tinges the evening air, for someone is having a picnic.  Meanwhile, the rabbits are feasting on clover and wild berries in the “enchanting evenings”  of early summer. 
I like to bring in bouquets of gardenias,-and lilies pair well with “Queen Annes’ lace.  I always had some sort of arrangement for those Sunday Dinners”, which now seem like affairs of  “olden times”.  We never seem to know which things will become precious memories.  We are prone to trying to create events that will surely be golden moments, but the truth is often, it is practices, that we remember.  The habits  that seem so ordinary, at the time, and surely not worthy of lasting a lifetime,  somehow do.  They are sweet and tender  recollections, without need of embellishments.
I know for me,  that I still remember playing in the shade of two massive oak trees, in months like June.  I remember hanging out clothes with Mama, and picking strawberries and setting up housekeeping in the barn, when it rained . . . and the sound of my maternal grandmothers, voice, though I have not heard it in more than fifty years now.  

 

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 Not every memory  mat evoke gratitude, nor loveliness.   I still shudder  remembering the last year of my fathers’ life.  . . but I can also remember the tireless care my mother gave him, the bravery my sisters’ mustered and the compassion of neighbors and friends.
The task at hand, seems to me, that we ought to hold on to, what was beautiful.

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