“Raised in a Barn”

It is cold, dark and still-and not yet dawn, as I write this.  If there is another soul awake, in this small town, they are quiet too, for the place is silent.  Winter mornings are like that.   They are born like a lavender whisper.  Even the early birds wait for the light, to sing.   
A lot happened last week.  I had major dental surgery on Friday.  I had put it off, til I couldn’t.  Mama said “do it” and so I did.  Sisters Connie and Delores-and niece Dana came to help out.  Connie drove us to the facility and tended to the business, as she is well versed in that area.  Delores and Dana met us there, prepared to stay  the weekend.  The office staff was quite amused that I had such a crowd with me.  I guess it was a bit funny, but for me,  I was one glad chicken! 
I will spare you the details, just know I am on a liquid diet until further notice.  I did not work all week and had time for reflection on the event.  I thought of all the support and assistance my family offered.   They were all at my beckon call.  Dana listened to me recite the alphabet, for my speech was affected.  All was good until I got to “Q”.  Dana encouraged me to keep trying, when suddenly I thought aloud . . .”When will I ever have to say “Q”?  We all laughed at that. 
A few days later, I was painting roses, then a dresser and then going through a few boxes of still stored items.  I found a journal that Christian kept at a very young age.  . .he has always kept a journal.  It was entitled “A Christmas Story”.  He wrote about Kyle, who was around nine at the time.  Kyle had been hired to clean a neighbors’ yard and invited Christian to help him.  Christian, around five years old, had declined.  The next day, Kyle had a gift for every one of us.  Christian was impressed for he concluded his entry with . . .”He (Kyle) didn’t buy anything for himself.”  I did not miss the significance nor the beauty of this. 
I still have a dozen more boxes to go through, for a storage closet will soon grace the hall of the humble cottage on Bonnet street..  Mostly, for such collections as Christian’s journals, and other keepsakes to be stored in. 
 Winter has always been a good time for such projects-and since I always seem to end up in an old house, it is especially true.  Now, when I was a kid, this wasn’t so true. 
Winter was a time to ramble in the woods.  Every child in the community was a cousin, one way or another.  it mattered little to any of us whether we were first, second, third or fourth-we were cousins.  We banded together and took to the woods for hours. 
We knew every acre thoroughly.  There was always a dog with us-and a pony or two. We were not allowed to traipse the woods in the summer because of snakes, poison ivy, ticks and red bugs-but after the frost, the woods were our playground.  We had all sorts of landmarks.  There was an old warrior tree that had fallen .  We always stopped there.  There was an abandoned house, an old school bus and several ponds.  The largest oak, that I have ever seen grew in one patch of the wild woods. . .  We always knew where we were.  We kept up with time by the sun and somehow, we always made it home by supper. 
On rainy stretches, we took to the barns.  Every one had a barn, in those days. Big, two story barns . . and the ponies were welcome to come in too.   Those barns became forts or homes, depending on our whims.
One barn looked as if a good wind could surely topple it, I thought.  I was wary of that barn-but the thing just fell down, a few years back.  Another barn was owned by a family with a nervous mother.  She sounded an alarm about every fifteen minutes, that somebody was going to break their neck or need stitches or some other calamity was nigh.  Honestly, all sorts of things were possible, but none of it ever happened. 
The best barn to me, was Pop and Grandmamas’ barn.  It was sturdy and tidy.  There was an old Victrola and benches, and chairs-oh what a good place for the dolls to grow up!  When I hear the expression “raised in a barn”  well, I laugh because I was and do not have a single regret. 
In their earliest years, my own children enjoyed that same sort of liberty.  They spent  winters in the woods, with a dog and a lamb-and a pony.  Often, I accompanied them, but not always.  We carried books. picnics and sometimes a kite, for there were many fields resting, in winter. My grandmother wandered with us sometimes.  At seventy five years old, she went over a fence to stand beneath that big oak tree, that I mentioned earlier. 
To me nature has a sermon-quiet spoken words, heard  by the heart.  Nature is authentic beauty that provokes my gratitude.  It never fails to validate my faith and it does not fail to spark wonder.   
I strongly prefer wild places, where I am surrounded by truth.  . .  and where things make sense.  Thank Goodness, that nature is not easily swayed by “band wagons” but instead goes about its’ own business . . .which, we all depend on. 
I am no longer living on the edge of  woods and, so I console myself that the sky above me is a wild place. A garden, also is a wild place-even flower beds-and even potted geraniums.  These things will keep me tethered to  nature, my beloved friend.  










































Before Christmas . . .and Beyond

It did not snow on Bonnet Street, though it was certainly cold enough to.  The days leading up to Christmas were filled with all sorts of weather. 
It rained a few days and felt like early April. The bitter cold came next. It was the wind- and it blew with malice, for two days.   It was well below freezing and there were power outages, because of that.  The boxer and I braved the harsh elements, for a quick stroll around the cottage.  I wanted to experience the extreme weather.  We did not linger, but I have now seen this particular sort of wind. 
I think this Christmas was the coldest one in a long while. I remember it was  1989 the last time, that pipes froze at Christmas  , for the children got a pony and cart that year! 
 School closed for the holidays and I got a quick visit with Brant, Sydney and those adorable boys.  A few days later, I was in Elizabeth City with my adorable girls. My  grandchildren are truly the icing on the loveliest cake I could have ever hoped for. 
The children were full of joy and not just because of “presents”, for we use great restraint to keep the season pure-though Brynn expected “gold, frankincense and myrrh” at one point and Ryan was convinced it must be his birthday.  The little “brother and sister cousins” , for that is what they call one another, are so happy and loving to one another.  Watching them, is one of my very favorite occasions.
We had several gatherings .  We all met at Mamas’ for each one.  She had company for several nights as well.  Every bed and a couch was used. 
At meals, every surface was laden with dishes-and the table was surrounded with chairs seldom used.  Looking back . . I feel blessed.  You can not have too many loved ones.
In the midst of cooking and visiting and decorating, I  painted a very large book case, I had made for the house. Now, all of my beloved books are sorted and stored in one location-with the exception of a collection of very old books.  They are in a cabinet, that belonged to my dearest friend Julies’ grandmother.  There is a door with etched glass that will protect them from the dust we kick up in the rosewood cottage. 
Julie was an avid reader and was always studying various subjects. . . hence she was smart as could be- and sassy as fire .  We could not hold a secret from one another, for we were were bound in a way,  that made it impossible.   I can not think of her, without tears welling up. 
  We continue to observe “Old Christmas”.  . .just as Pop and Grandma did.  We received little gifts and it stuck with me to remember the journey of the wise men to find baby Jesus. At Farm Life, Miss Sylvia revived my memory.  She had a celebration of “Old Christmas” every year. 
I  have had to discard the arrangements of pine, rosemary and cedar, for their beauty had faded.   . .  and was strewn on tables and every floor.  I did make a fresh bouquet, for I love the wild scent of evergreens.     Paired with fruit,  this winter fragrance  makes the cottage air as  wild and sweet as a patch of young woods.. 
I love winter.    The horizon is  fringed   with  a lace woven by the bare branches of trees, at rest.  Sunlight falls in patches of earth, forbidden in months like June.  The coldness and early nightfall seem to invite all to go home early , with its’ beckoning lights shining through the windows. If all goes well, the kitchen smells of savory, slow cooked foods-or maybe bread and coffee. 
Of course. my winters of yesteryears,  remain my favorites.  I did not have to beg the children to come in for supper, for the chill and dark of a winter evening crept up on them swiftly . How content I was to see them gathered, as I cooked.  I have always loved winter. 
Now with a new year dawning, I find myself remembering the  years with all of my elder. I go through my collection of lessons taught, of loving acts and practical life skills.  I love remembering our “way of life “.  I glean from the memories, what wisdom I can and preserve  what beauty,  I can. Even now, much of the lessons, remain true and worthy of consideration,  even in this flashy and flying age.  I was not handed “fools’ gold” for my pockets, as a child.  Now, as an older soul-I can recognize it a country mile away.
O what riches, I was bestowed . . . the kind that “moth and rust do not corrupt”- nor do they end up in a yard sale!  They do not break or fall out of style but instead, increase in value. . . and I think they bear repeating.
I suppose the new year has rekindled my gratitude and inspired me to love  . . .deeply  .  . . to live simply and with pure intensions.  I will strive with diligence to live with authenticity- and to be as genuine as I can.  “Putting on airs” is such a waste of energy- and besides, I’d rather be dusting furniture than practicing such a thing.. 
Sometimes, I have wondered if living  in your own specific spirit, might be our intended purpose.   After all, that  in itself, is truly a monumental feat and is only accomplished through countless acts of courage. 
 In addition, to my lofty notions, I want to surround myself with as much beauty and peace as this world will allow.   This will only come with consistent effort-and to stay that country mile away from “fools’ gold”.   . .That stuff is everywhere.










From the Rabbitpatch Diary

In less than a fortnight, many things have happened.
  As soon as baby Banks came home from the hospital . . Ryan developed a temperature and a cough.  With an infant in the house, Ryan was quickly taken to the doctor.  As it turned out, he had RSV.  We have probably all had it at some point, for it is a common ailment       . . .but dangerous for infants.    Therefore Brant and Ryan have been living downstairs and Sydney and little Banks dwelling upstairs.  What a predicament-and right off the bat! Ryan could not understand that he saw the baby he had waited for at last and then the baby whisked away-and with his mama!  Thankfully, Brant and Sydney are as capable as can be and handled it like champions. They should  be able to have their own little family reunion this weekend.  . .and soon, those of us waiting in the wings, will have our turn to see our beloved baby-and our precious Ryan. 
An autumn wind blew  for a few days.  Every jewel the trees owned was cast on the earth beneath them.  What a colorful carpet was created in this little rabbitpatch!  The temperatures have remained warm, up until this very morning.  When I went out, before the crack of dawn, I was greeted with a coolness, that warranted a jacket.  I like all kinds of weather, (though the sultry days of mid summer are my least favorite) and so, I welcomed the crisp morning, with open arms.  It is almost Thanksgiving, after all! 
Memories are being made at the rosewood cottage.  Tres and Sarah have visited several times.  Mama comes and  we all enjoy a good meal.  Sister Delores and niece Dana have visited, too. The place feels more and more like “home”, on account of this.
Conversations around a table, are my kind of occasions. Such times lend my life a valuable substance and remembering  them later, is heartwarming.
What I remember about my childhood are those ordinary kinds of things-like conversations around a table.  I remember our way of life.   . .and it was a beautiful and uncomplicated way.  We went to see “Mama Hodges” on a weekday morning, we went to town to get groceries, and we went to church on Sundays- other than that we were at home.  There were few things to rush about.  If rain came and there were clothes on the line-or if the ponies got out . . then a commotion ensued.  Other than that, we were an orderly lot enjoying a peaceful life. 
Organized sports were created within the family.  Daddy made a top notch basketball goal and we all enjoyed that.   Cousins Chuck  and Chris would join us, as they lived just beyond the pasture-and many nights we played til it became too dark to see the ball. Sometimes Daddy hit flyballs in the evenings for us to catch. (I was awful at that)   We played badminton and volleyball- and cousins would gather for kickball, races, high jump, long jump and the pasture was full of ponies for rides back in the field, along the edge of the woods.  Likewise, tutoring and music-and “therapy” took place at home.   . .often in the garden-sometimes, while  hanging clothes. Mama was good at therapy.  
 If I could hand a “silver platter” to my grandchildren, it would be laden with such things.  The business of childhood is short but mighty powerful, after all. 
“The government changed the clocks again.”  I laugh every time I remember  saying this.  My grandmother Warren, in her later years could not understand why we had to change the clocks. She asked me a lot of questions about the why and what for of it.  She was convinced that the school, I still work at, was trying to get me to work more hours.  Finally after a long while, I whipped out-that “The government changed the clocks.”  She was satisfied at last. 
 Regular readers know, that I am not a fan of this practice.  I do not like “Daylight saving time” which has never made a bit of sense to me.  The sun sets and rises as it pleases so no one can claim any sort of say about that.  Man can not save up daylight. . .or create a minute more of it.   . . besides, I like for it to be dark when I have supper!  It is no wonder, that my dear grandmother was confused about it. 
Part II
The weekend is here now-and full of pleasant prospects.  Sister Delores and her family are coming on Sunday for an early Thanksgiving celebration.  We will gather at Mamas’.  I have been up for a while with “visions of pies and pumpkin bread dancing in my head” .  I am cooking what I can in the rosewood cottage kitchen and then heading to Mamas’ to spend the night.  Mama and I will finish up more details tomorrow morning.   Sister Connie may be able to come for the Sunday meal and Christian too, if he can get off work in time. 
On Monday, Mama and I head to Raleigh to meet baby Banks!  That is a “red letter day” for me!  I am so excited about seeing my dearest little boys.  I can’t wait to see Brant and Sydney either.  I just enjoy seeing how lovingly they raise their children-now at last together, since that awful episode with RSV!    
The eve of all this is a happy time for me. 
Yesterday, we had our first frost of the season.  This was a bit of a “late” frost, for this area. 
How beautiful the world was that morning, I noticed as I drove to work.  The first light of the day cast its’ shine and transformed even the dullest spots.  I smiled remembering that Daddy always woke us with the same  morning greeting on  frosty days . . . . “Jack Frost came last night!”  When we were quite young, he would tell us that Jack Frost had a bucket of ice and would paint the world, while we we slept.  We would spring out of our dreams, sure one morning that we would catch him in the act. I still like to imagine that and will abandon science altogether, . . in the event of frost.

A Child is Born

Autumn days are finally here . . on Bonnet Street. A fortnight ago, the brightest blue skies appeared.  Mist and fog veil the dawn and  there are branches of some trees donning scarlet and golden leaves.  Now the air is tinged with the scent, known only in October.  I love October!  Besides being especially lovely, it is the prelude to the holidays and cozy nights . . .with slow cooked meals. This particular, October we are awaiting the arrival of Brant and Sydneys’ second son . . .and Ryans’ little brother. It is a holy time, to me.
As I get older, I consider many things sacred .  Even planting twin cedars, gifted to me by my much loved Chris and Aino, was a time of reverence. To me, planting something, that sprung up in a woods, miles away, discovered and then gifted, is not short of wonderous.   . . .
  As I watch the yard becoming a garden, I am as grateful as can be.  Already, my steps have created footpaths, for a lack of rain,  deems it necessary to baptize my floral community, every other day.  I treasure natural occurrences . . . such as footpaths.  They tell your story, in a way. 
I notice things as I go along toting a shovel or those buckets of water,  That is how I realised that a scrubby bush, was actually a young crepe myrtle abiding by the fence.  Just recently, I found something else to love.
The fence between my house and my next door neighbors’ home, is covered with honeysuckle, confederate jasmine and ivy.  A slab of cement is along that path, at the end of the driveway-I suppose the remnants of a shed.  I turned that area into a potting and painting station.  My back was always to my neighbors’ home.  I let the clambering vines clamber with great  liberty, while my back was to them. When I am on a task, I am unaware of anything going on around me.  I have proven this time and time again.  Once my late husband walked in the kitchen.  I was playing my violin, while a pot was smoldering on the stove, filling the air with smoke!  So, it is no wonder, that I missed the tremendous oak growing in the middle of the neighbors yard.  It all started because  of a small, ivy covered tree stump and a lantern, that Mama had given me. 
The lantern was intended to be used outside of my back door, but the electrician deemed it worthless.  I thought . . .maybe not.  One day it came to me, that it might work on the little stump of a tree that had died young, many years ago.  It turned out, that the lantern was a good fit.  I was pushing the ivy back, when I saw the tree.  I was stunned at the beauty of it and remembered that Pop and Grandma had two of them, outside of their little farmhouse.  I do not know how long I stood there . . .but when my trance was broken I made haste to relocate my work station.  Now, I have a beautiful view of a patch of earth, with three old trees, for there were two more as well!  I felt I had “struck gold”, though gold paled in comparison.
Do you remember my “Quiet garden”  at the old farmhouse?  Well, I have found a spot to make a “Quiet Walk”  around the little rosewood cottage!   Granted, it will be a short walk, so I will have a bench, to contemplate or to dream . . .or to  pray or to rest upon. 
A lot of things can come to pass, when  you’re sitting   under an old tree.  Of course, right now, I  can only afford to practice such leisure arts, for brief moments, for  I am either painting or scrubbing or planting, and besides a job and housekeeping.  I am enjoying the work and the results have been quite pleasing . . .but I have not seen the grandchildren much and miss them terribly.  Hopefully, this weekend, that will change. 
Part II 
I declare that every morning there is more autumn colored leaves, than the day before!  There are apricot leaves and plum leaves and lemon yellow ones, too,  now.  Just a day or so ago, I started writing this post! 
Every morning, I wander around the yard, to start my day.  It is a dark and quiet time.  This morning,  before going out . . .Brant called.  He had another son!  His name is Kenon Banks, (Kin-an) named after Sydneys’ dear grandfather.  My heart was filled with gladness.  Mother and son were fine.  Brant and I were both crying with joy.  A picture proved what Brant said . .” He is beautiful. “
Afterwards, as I strolled, I took great note of the sky so I could tell Banks, about the stars, he was born beneath.  I noticed the air-cool and still, and the damp soil beneath me.  When I came in, I lit a candle and said a prayer of thanksgiving.  Now, in my spectrum of joyous events, nothing tops the birth of a grandchild.  After all, there is another somebody to love deeply, to hope for and to be loved by.  He will certainly bring gifts . . and I want to give him my own gifts. 
I was blessed with two wonderful grandmothers and decades later-one fifty years!) their love and influence, hasn’t dimmed.  Being a grandmother is truly, all it is cracked up to be. 
Part III 
 Though nothing compares to the birth of a grandson . . .still I   will mention that big progress has been made in my humble cottage.  At long last, a cabinet now abides where the washer and dryer used to.  It is a lovely piece and, made from old wood  that was rescued from ” the four corners of the earth”.   Tomorrow, the pantry door, which is a fancy old screen door,   salvaged from the barn at Farm Life, will be hung.  I am sure it will be the only screen door on the inside of a house in this small town, but being hopelessly sentimental . . . .I like it.  When the “dust settles”-and I mean that literally-I will  post pictures. 



From the Rabbitpatch on Bonnet Street


Niece Hayley was married last weekend on a beautiful day.  The air was not so sultry that day and a slight  scent of pine was present.  The sun shone brightly as if to say “Best Wishes!”.  Hayley and husband Carson are now out west on their honeymoon.
The closing for the rosewood cottage, was on the Friday, before the wedding.  Everything went smoothly and thank Goodness, for the days before were harrowing, with “urgent” details.  Cousin Chris, spent a day doing some repairs one day, that I was unaware of til the last minute.  He abandoned his own agenda to help me in a hurry.
Since the closing, I have been painting.  It all started, when I painted the dining room.  It turned out lovely and so the large hallway was gloomier than ever.  I got half of that painted and stopped because my bedroom was so shabby, I couldn’t bear it.  When I was too weak to climb any longer, I stopped that too.  Hopefully, I will complete the hall and the bedroom, this weekend.
I also planted two heirloom roses, that I purchased for two dollars each, on the clearance aisle at a nursery.  I knew there was hope for them and I wasn’t wrong, for they have each bloomed with fragrant blossoms, and not long after they came home.
 With work and housekeeping, I have stayed busy.  I realised that time was racing by me . . my life needed some balance.  I intentionally started seeking  beauty, in every spare moment allowed.  I soon found out, that finding something beautiful, was a delightful task and did not require a struggle.  Anytime, I have  desired to put things in perspective, nature has always provided the means to do so.  Somehow, things get sorted out, in the natural world and in a natural way.
Sunlight falls where it can, in the woods.  Birds and squirrels work without comparing their gains to other birds and squirrels.  Trees are stalwart members of the natural world, providing protection, substance and residents, and yet they never boast.  Overhead, the canopy, that we call the sky,  treats all without favoritism, without prejudices, and without malice, though everything  that has ever happened . . has been witnessed by the sky.  It is impossible to declare, as man likes to do, any sort of system that rates worthiness in nature, for all has a place of significant value that is dependent on one another and is relied on, as well.  After all it is the soil that grows a mighty oak.
I thought about such things as I walked from one class to another and as I made my way to and from the car.    How I love wild places!   . . .and it does me good to bind myself tightly to them.  My spirit is just too uncivilized to stray for long whiles.
School was cancelled due to the hurricane, we call Ian.  So far, it is breezy and raining at the rosewood cottage. So far, no roof leaks nor flooding on Bonnet Street-and the new kitchen light is shining merrily.
Time would tell, if these conditions lasted or not.  I made soup and meanwhile, took everything out of my closet!  The cozy closet (another word for “small”) had only been scrubbed as after all, I was only staying a few months.   . . I still laugh at that- but anyway, I wanted it painted.  The lightest shade of green suited me and since the bedroom is mostly white, I could indulge in violets that could clamber as they pleased, in the dark, amongst my wardrobe.
This venture took a long time.  When finally, I could put my things back in place, the breeze had ceased and the rain had too.
And now, it is Sunday.
Today, Mama is coming for a Sunday dinner.   I have hardly cooked, since I bought the rosewood cottage.  I have been restoring and always painting.  I have also taken an additional role at school, which requires a much earlier start.  In light of this,  little time  is left for cooking and writing-and reading .   . .all things that I love.  Today, I aim to mend my ways!   We are having baked chicken and creamed potatoes, which we will smother in gravy, string beans, corn salad (a very simple and old recipe) and bread pudding for the dessert.  . .and I am as happy as any lark, ever dared to be.

” I Am Here”

The past weeks  were filled with all sorts of things.  Just before school started, I took a long weekend in Elizabeth City.  Lyla was starting first grade on that Monday and so very excited about that-unlike her grandmother had been at that age. 
There was a movie night.  We made brownies and redecorated the little girls’ bedroom.  We rearranged the play room and had a small shopping spree, all before that Monday.  We were busy. 
I don’t even remember why Brynn was crying, but she was in Jennys’ arms one morning.  I was in the kitchen and overheard Brynns’ little voice, full of distress.   . . .and I heard Jenny soothing her little daughter.  Jenny repeated “I am here”  several times. in a hushed tone.  I was deeply moved.  What comfort, she spoke. 
My own Mother still says those words to me, and most especially these last two chaotic years, when one thing after another sprung up.  “I am here” is a language of love. 
Mothers  say it-and I feel like God says it too.  Somehow, I know I am never really on my own in the business of life. I may complain and over think things as if I am solely responsible for my fate . . . for a while.  When I have become weary and exhausted my dim mind – in other words, when I have given up-I suddenly realise, all over again, that God says to my heart, “I am here.” It is never “old hat”. 
It does amuse me, that I always seem to go through those  same tiresome motions like a very dull human. 
My own school started, too.  I had to be at work on Tuesday.  Some of the children came in beaming with “great expectations”-a few did not.  An especially dear little one was crying quietly.  I knew why she was crying. for she too was leaving a small farm with wood and field-and a big sky overhead.  She was leaving solitude and her animal friends, which she is very devoted to.. .  In all the many years that have passed . . .I have never forgotten how that felt. 
The next day, that especially dear child was laughing and playing on the playground. 
 I have planted more flowers around the rosewood cottage.  There are more pinks, for I can’t get enough.  I have planted a few white chrysanthemums-and I need a few more.  I found a few echinacea flowers that reminded me of the old farmhouse and a small rosemary bush begged to come home with me.  The yard is starting to look cheerful-and I am too.
One day, recently, I discovered a cascade of white blossoms on the fence.  It was confederate jasmine.  What a lovely scent they lend to the air!  I was thrilled.  Finally, something was blooming that I didn’t have to dig a hole for!    Another day, a bush that I had allowed to grow along the fence, was suddenly donning pink blossoms.  That bush was a young crepe myrtle!  Another  delightful surprise.  Maybe, I now hear, at long last . . “I am here.” 
So far so good on all the commotion involved in buying a house, these days.  When I bought the Farm Life house, I simply signed papers and went home.  The process is very different now.  It is complicated and the volume of details is exhausting.  I was so happy for the holiday just because, I knew the bank was closed and I wouldn’t receive another task to do “immediately”! 
Another reason-and most of all-I was happy  for the holiday, was that the family was gathering at Mamas’ .  Brynn and Ryan have September birthdays, so we all shared a wonderful meal which concluded with cake, ice cream and gifts.
I watched the children playing.  I try not to intervene, but to simply observe how they play together.  They rarely argue and what Lyla says goes, for Brynn and Ryan are sure she knows best.  Dolls and tractors, tea cups and trucks, are all cast into the same dramas.  Ryan may become “Captain America” at any given moment-but somehow, the story continues.  I feel as I watch, that I am getting an understanding of them, that  happens only in this way,  Their natural tendencies are unhindered, at play.
Tres had been tinkering on Daddys’ old tractor, the last few times, he had visited.  This time he gave Ryan rides on it.  That was a sight. 
I sure miss Daddy. 
 I don’t understand it, but it bothers me that Daddy will never stand in the small yard around the rosewood cottage-nor will he eat in the little dining room-neither will Grandmama, nor  Uncle Randy and aunt Carolyn, nor aunt Josie.  To me, this matters, though it is a senseless notion.  I have at least planted things in their honor.  I mention their names almost daily.  Just remembering them, honors them. 
It finally rained.  It was on Saturday.  I have missed the rain.  My collection of rain water had dwindled to a mere small bucket, so I was glad for that too.  I decided to paint the kitchen that day. 
The rosewood cottage is small and the dark beige walls throughout the house made it smaller and gloomy.  I worked all day, into the night.  Watching the kitchen brighten seemed to implore me to work.  When Christian came in from work, he was pleasantly surprised with the  scene of a now happy, kitchen.  I wished I had baked a cake.   
It rained again on Sunday . . .and so I started on the dining room.  Finally, that evening, I ran out of paint. 
The closing is scheduled for Friday.   I am excited, nervous and happy all at once.  I am also still bewildered.  Like usual,  I never saw this coming.  I moved here in a mad rush and was sure the place was just a pit stop.   . . now I need more paint .    . . and flowers for my garden.  . .  and most of all to remember not to “lean on my own understanding”.  

For the Love of a Dog

There are but a few swiftly waning hours left of my summer.  Hence, I have cleaned out every closet and cabinet in the little house on Bonnet Street.  I have also been jumping at every command the bank issues-not” my cup of tea”, I told the loan officer., the other day. I have unpacked boxes, whose fate remained uncertain, until recently. 
I start school this week.
  Now the first signs of a garden are evident, in the back yard.  Phlox, pinks and russian sage  have settled in nicely, just like the peach tree.  Brant gave me two Indian Hawthorns- They are the beginning of the “living fence” that I hope to create.  A young butterfly bush is blooming under an old bird house . . .and there are birdbaths.  My grandfathers’ old wagon wheels are propped  against an oak tree. Tea Olives, Holly, Cape Jessamine, roses and such things dance in my head like sugarplums- Oh, the heart of a gardener is full of hope! 
Last weekend, we gathered in Raleigh.  Brant and Sydney were quite the host and hostess.  Sydney made a cake, that was one of the best, I have ever eaten,  When I get the right flour, I will attempt it myself.  Brant made a small fire one night for smores.  Lyla, especially loved that.   My sons watched sports together and my daughters chatted.  The “brother and sister cousins” frolicked about.  Nobody wanted it to end, in fact Brynn declared she was staying! 
I doubt there is little else with the same degree of satisfaction, as that derived from a loving family.  All other accomplishments pale in comparison. I see my children raising their own with tenderness and thoughtfulness and my heart floods with joy.  Another thing, is that they know their children deeply and thoroughly.  I watch Tres being the kind of uncle, every child wants.  The scene is like watching a poem, to me. . . even when the grandchildren are naughty! 
I realised on my drive home, that at last, the place does feel like home.   . .and I felt glad about it. 
A house does not become a home in a flash.  At first, it is a place to keep your things, like a huge closet-It is also a place to sleep and a shelter, all admirable and traits to desire.   But a home, is more than a structure.  It is a place in your journey, where someone has a birthday.  It has the back door for  our loved ones.  It smells like supper cooking.  When you know  which window the sun shines in-and when and know personally, where the sparrow builds a nest . . . then you are home. 
I suppose for me, it also means hours playing in the dirt and welcoming the young flowers to their new home.  I have had conversations with the oaks, too.  I know where the boxer likes to rest . . and there are the chiming church bells.   
To think, that less than a year ago, I was picking up curtains and clothes out of the yard, seems unreal.  I knew then that the place was surely unlovable and very temporary.  It was the only rental in this small town that allowed a dog, no matter how much money one had.  So, for the love of a dog, I had taken it.  I did not want to rent either.  I cleaned it and tolerated it.  I went on a quest trying to get out of it . . That was a short lived affair.  I remember feeling trapped.  I mourned for the old farmhouse and the countryside.  . . some days, worse than others. 
I was glad to have a home and that the neighborhood was quiet.  I reminded myself that at least there were old trees.  Nothing convinced me that I could love the place, though.    I felt ashamed that I was ungrateful. When  the deal was struck with the landlords it felt safe to plant the potted friends, from Farm Life.  I felt inclined to buy my beloved pinks . . .and then I dove head long and started a garden.   So far, so good, with all the business that goes along buying a home.  Things can change at any given moment, but I will remember that under the old oak, covered in dirt, I fell in love with the rosewood cottage . .  on a rabbitpatch .   . . for today . . .that is enough.

“Out of the Blue”

The sultry days of August are upon us.  Every day is as hot as the day before-and the one to come next.  Sometimes, a shower pops up and I celebrate every one of them. When the showers leave, mist forms and quiets the  wilting landscape, for a while.  Despite the awful conditions, I have been scurrying the last few weeks. 
Mama and I visited Aunt Christine again and got to see her grandchildren and a great grandchild as well.  It was another lovely time. 
Brant and Sydney came for the weekend. I made tarts for the occasion and Sydney baked a cake. Brant worked the whole time and the visit with little Ryan and Sydney, was too brief to suit me, for I can never see them too much. Still, I was glad to have the visit. 
The next day, Sister Delores and niece Dana came.  Niece Hayley was being honored with a bridal shower.  Mama and I ,  Delores and Dana attended that on Sunday.   The affair was at a delightful cottage like home, that was nestled in a grove of old trees on a country road.  The ladies were all friendly-and so we all enjoyed ourselves.
I left afterwards for Elizabeth City. 
 I was there four wonderful days.  It was just too hot to walk by “the laughing river”. . .so,  I told extra stories about dolls who drank strawberry tea with a talking kitten.  It was a golden time, altogether.  In a week we will all gather in Raleigh for a weekend gathering.  I suppose this will be the grand finale of our summer, as in a few very short weeks we return to schedules and days measured by the almighty clock.   Mama and I got in  another visit with Aunt Christine and Uncle Gene.  This time I was so happy to see my cousin, Gena as well.  Gena was the first “living doll” in my life.  She is younger than me and I used to love the afternoon visits in the yesteryears, at Pop  and Grandmamas’, when she would follow us around the yard.  She wore pristine dresses and had curls peeking out from under hats.There was never one iota of unkindness in her . . . .and that is still true, today.
Something has come up, which I could not have predicted.  Regular reader know, that I prefer fields and woods to streets-and moon shine to street lights.  I have certainly always said so.  While, that remains true, “something out of the blue”  came up. . .I am in the process of buying the little house on Bonnet Street.  It happened this way .   . . 
The landlords offered me a deal, that would have been foolish to decline, even if I am a devoted fan of rural living.  This is one of the reasons, that I have been scurrying about, for there is a lot of business to tend to.  I of all people, know first-hand, that anything can go wrong in the process . . .still, I planted a peach tree.  I have planted pinks and phlox, as well-and said a prayer as I did so.  As I worked and dreamed, my heart softened til at last, I knew that I was in the right place, at this particular time.
The little house on Bonnet street is older than I am-of course, I love an old house.  I must confess that I have entertained a few notions about some improvements, I may attempt. A small pantry, moving the laundry  OUT OF THE KITCHEN.  That has been a thorn “in the side of the house” .  As far as I am concerned, it is an unnatural thing to wash clothes in the same room, that I bake my bread in.   A little clothes line would suit me, too. . . .and roses.  I know it may all come to nothing-but I like letting my imagination “run wild” on occasion.  It was imagination that made the first rabbitpatch, after all.  It was not a garden, when I got there.    . . and I have already planted a peach tree. 
Now, tomorrow an official appraiser comes. I know full well, that he is not interested in my housekeeping, nor the fact that my flowers are blooming their hearts out .   He could care less about the lovely second-handle table, that is freshly painted and affectionately named  the “Scott”, after the cousin that I got it from. . . .I also know that there isn’t a bit of harm in a  good presentation.  Besides that,  I love a tidy house, myself. 
I can declare with all certainty, that I can not predict the future,  but  . . . time will tell, as it always does.

“Whatsoever things are lovely . . .”

The week after our holiday,” Beside the sea” was full of good things.  As is my habit, I did mope the first few days.  Then I painted flowers and read more Thoreau” .  I did  extensive housekeeping and created more house plants from my little rootings. . .  and all of that acted like a tonic on my dampened spirit.   
The painting of the flowers, came first.  I am satisfied with my roses.  For some reason, painting roses, feels like listening to an old familiar song. This week, I decided to paint violets, using watercolors.   I have a small beside table that I employed as my “canvas”.  Watercolors have a mind of their own,  I remembered, from years past, so I consoled myself, that I could just paint over, what could not be forgiven.  Thus, I began the project.  Of course, my violets would  be shades of faded  pink-for I can not be a realist, for “love or  money”.  The thing took days.  There was the drying of the paint, before applying new paint and then as always, I looked at at it and added as I felt pink violets would grow, if there was such a flower.  My violets grew happily on a corner and then cascaded down a leg of the table, and over the drawer .  Christian is an artist, and so I used his eye to guide my attempts. 
After several days of  “watching the garden grow”, I was finally satisfied and literally, sealed the deal.  Guess what I love about watercolors . . it is that they do have a mind of their own!  I would have an idea in mind as I painted, but before my eyes, a violet would nod in a direction I hadn’t imagined or a leaf would decide its’  own fate-always better than I had intended. 
 One day, Mama and I went to see Aunt Christine and Uncle Gene.   Aunt Christine is Mamas’ sister and lives about a half hour away.  It was a delightful visit-and Uncle Gene is quite entertaining with his humor, though Aunt Christine says “he is not that funny.”  I found out that Aunt Christine loves dishes and has  beautiful collections to prove it. 
The next day, I practiced making pastry .  My first effort, a few weeks back was less than what I desired-and so I hoped for better this time.  I was rewarded with a tender, flaky concoction and so, I will continue to practice the skill, for  it is practice that makes the difference between “beginners’ luck” – and a good cook. 
   After a very hot and dry spell of 100 degree days,  rain showed up like an old, long-  lost friend.   How happy I was to hear the rain tapping  on the tin roof.   When the wind picked up and it became as cool as May, well the world seemed friendly and  more cheerful, altogether.  I painted a flower pot that afternoon.
Mama and I left for Raleigh, the next day, to spend the better part of the week. We found little Ryan as adorable as ever-and Sydney -carrying the “little brother” is at last feeling better.  Now, she has the glow of an expectant mother. 
Ryan says anything he wants to these days.  One day, he asked Mama for a snack.  Mama said “lets ask your Mommy”.  To which Ryan replied, “I’m asking you.” Sister Delores lives on the outskirts of Raleigh, so she visits, when we are there and Mama spends a night or two with her, during our stay. 
In the evenings, I watched Brant teach Ryan how to hit and catch a baseball.  My own Daddy did the same thing, I remembered.  
Though, I have never liked the summer heat, in the south, I do like the leisure days.  From attending school as a child and then working at schools, the summer has, most of my life, represented liberty.  To me, owning your life is the truest form of wealth.  I had much rather decide when I eat or sleep- (Clocks are often poor indicators of such needs.} and  I do not consult a clock, to know when to make a pie or when to read, or paint or write.  For a bit of a the year, I can do as I please . Thus the summer is a time of indulgence for me, too.    I do not like the hateful heat, nor the mosquitoes either.  By now, the light of day is too long to suit me.   . . .but oh, there is more to the season . .
 .   . .For the cape jessamine blooms and so does the magnolia.  The lowly mimosa trees shine  like champions in July-The song of the cicadas ring out and tomatoes taste better in the summer.  The chaotic business of the world seems a bit more distant-even if it is for a short while, when roses are blooming. 
It is written that “love covers a multitude of sins”  .   . .  I have found this to be true -and so I will let the earth love me with roses and cucumbers , with a fan, humming in the house, and the greenest grass of the year. 
There is not enough time, even in the longest days of the year to count all of our blessings .. . for prosperity and abundance may not be in plain sight.   Sometimes, we have to look for the evidence.  For it is also written . . .“Whatsoever things are true,  . . .whatsoever things are pure,  . . .whatsoever things are lovely . . .think on these things.”

Beside the Sea

The past week was not  usual , nor ordinary.  I did not line dry clothes or tend to the vines on the fence,  I did not paint a single bird or blossom. 
Instead, I was collecting shells by a very cold sea .  . .watching light dance upon the water, like sprites.   The ancient sea was too cold, for mere humans.
Every day of our gathering by the Atlantic was sunny, but one.  I love weather, and so a cloudy day did not hamper my disposition.  . .most especially, when you have a good book . . and a candy shop a few blocks away.  Several guests came, during our stay.  An old acquaintance , one of Jennys’ friends was there for a day.  What a lovely person she is.  She is a thinker and acts on her convictions.  What a rarity to see someone living their truth !  Besides that, she is funny and kept us entertained. 
A new friend,  to me,  came for a few days. He is an artist and straight away, I could see he had a ” heart of gold” and and was  kind and gentle in his ways, as anyone I had ever met. 
Then, there was Grandaddy Bill, Wills’ father.  He is an author with more than several books, to his credit.  I am a picky reader, and I will tell you, that Bill Thompson never disappoints me.  The little girls were thrilled to see him and that warmed my heart.  He told me, he wished he could see the girls more . . and I wish that too, for he is full of experiences and has lively stories, to tell  of them.  Their grand father sees authentic  beauty and recognizes it. Then, he writes about it-and makes his readers see it too. 
 Wills’ sister was there and she is a writer and can draw portraits.  We had several conversations that were tucked in my heart.  She is an encourager and so very generous with uplifting words. 
Her mother, Miss Claudia was the same and I remembered her with great fondness, most every day.  Even with all the chatter and busyness-I ached for the weeks that she was there, too. 
We spent a good deal of time with Brant, Sydney and Ryan-and Sydneys’ parents and brothers.  What a wonderful lot they are!  They are  welcoming and friendly.  I can scarce tell which children belong to whom, for everybody loves them and treats them , as such.  I am sure that the little girls see Scott and Seth as uncles.  Sydneys’ parents love Brant thoroughly-that means everything to me.  Besides all of that . . . there is never a dull moment, when you are in the midst of them. 
 Of course, and not least of all, was the ocean.  The sight of it is very humbling.  Who can feel mighty in its’ presence?  I realised just how small I was-and all of mankind-not insignificant, but more like a valuable particle of life.  We can “put on airs” (what a useless and utter waste of a life)  and exaggerate our “power”-or “control”  of all things, but in the presence of the vast and wild sea,  as in the presence of a mighty oak, or a whispering pine or a sparrows’ nest full of promises . . .well, we could be persuaded to reconsider, our stance.   In some sort of way, such things unite, all humans. 
 The evening we left, little Brynn, fell asleep before her supper and slept the whole way home.  Jenny laid her tenderly in her bed, once we arrived.  The next morning, Brynn awoke, looked around and asked “What happened?”   Her still, cherub like face, was frozen in astonishment-and confusion.   . .“Oh,  but,  a lot of lovely things happened . . while we were down and beside  the sea.”  I thought.


The Latter days of Spring

The wonderful and very old farmhouse is sold .  I who, make gallant strides, not to attach myself to possessions, have mourned the loss of the place.  I am glad to say, that I am at  long last, with peace, about it .    
School ended and immediately, sister Delores, Mama, niece Dana and I,  joined forces for a bridal shower for niece Hayley.  What a commotion ensued!  Dana and I arranged flowers gathered from gardens, back yards-and ditch banks. We all cooked.  Mama tied bows for lanterns and bird feeders-and the mailbox.  Delores decorated and did all sorts of jobs.  We used the same  cut glass dishes, used for generations  and what a lovely table it made.   We also used something from the women before us. There were dishes, a teacup, a snow globe, a lamp and a hand made basket.  We used a small silver tray Daddy had received from working a good deal of his life, with the same company.  I recorded all of this in Hayleys’ “keepsake book”.
As it turns out, we are a good team, for the celebration was without blemish.  When Mamas’ house was back in order, I left for a visit with Jenny and her family. 
The days were filled with stories, books and ice cream.  Will had a birthday and opted for a banana pudding,  instead of a cake, which perplexed the little girls, but they helped anyway.   None of us, were  happy to part, but the sorrow was stunted with the thrill of an upcoming beach trip.  Not only, am I going, but  Brant, Sydney  and  “baby brother cousin”, Ryan will be there as well. 
We just found out that “little Ryan”, will have a little brother in November!   What sweet news-so much that I danced, right there in the dining room!
The latter days of spring have been full of gifts for my heart.
Since being back at the rabbitpatch, on Bonnet Street, I have painted an old Samsonite suitcase, purchased for three dollars at a thrift store.  I had great fun painting a robin in a branch of pale, pink blossoms, on one side and a pastel wreath with a blue rabbit, on the other.  There is a small slight dent, in the case, that I may declare occurred in London, though I have never been there.  I think if you paint blue rabbits and pastel colored leaves, such a fairy tale is not  sinful.   I have a number of projects planned this summer.  I intend to paint birds and flowers-and rabbits . . maybe horses, too-oh! and elephants.  So far, so good. 
Painting. does not come easy for me and so I am full of thought on how to make flowers look as if they grew wildly and unhindered, with their own intentions.   While I paint, the chaos of this world is dimmed  . . in those moments lies the beauty. 
I am reading Thoreau, as well.  The things he observed, and wrote about  in the woods, is very akin to my own way of thinking .  Of course, Thoreau knew it all first.
Thoreau saw how man weighed and measured every thing and every act.  Judgement was calculated  seemingly dependent on the monetary worth, of  the deeds, of a human.  It is no  wonder to me, that Thoreau “took to the woods” for a long while , for it is  disheartening, when you think about it.  What profits a human, will never be solely accounted for in worldly currency.
Thoreaus’ collection of works spark my heart and spur me on to greater things than just keeping the lights on! 
Now, I ready myself, for a trip to the ocean.  The air will smell of salt and the soils will be soft, hot sand, that shifts beneath you, making your steps  more tiresome than ever.  The landscape will be tall slender grasses and “Joe Bell” flowers  . . and shrubs whittled by the constant wind. The sky will be as vast as you can ever see it . . and then, there is is the ocean.  A shining sea that sings constantly and boasts of genuine power.  The ocean does not recognize, status or wealth or accomplishments or talent. Its’ beauty and mercy are doled out , to all without recognition of  such criteria.  The sea is like “the rain that falls on the just and the unjust” .  Nature conducts itself with such generosity and we would all do well to consider that.
Of course for me, the mighty ocean is enhanced when my grandchildren play on its’ shores.  I will not get one red cent for watching the scene, or listening to the songs of the water and wind -but I declare . ..I will  profit . . . in unmeasurable ways.

Time Well Spent

I rarely leave the little rabbitpatch on Bonnet Street.  I go to work.  I go the grocery and I visit Mama and the grandchildren.  I love to be home.  On Saturday, I broke this habit and ventured more than a few country miles, to attend a brunch honoring  our “bride to be”, niece, Hayley.
  Mama, sister Delores and my other niece, Dana and I, all rode together.  After a pleasant drive, we turned down a winding lane, in awe of the massive house, looming ahead. Emerald wheat fields were on either side of the historical home,  Old trees completed the scene.  Two roosters strutted about.  It was as beautiful a place as I have ever been. 
We walked up on the fantastic porch to be warmly greeted by the grand lady with the grand house.  I was so stunned with the beauty of the place, I could hardly speak.  The foyer was a generous space.  Fresh greenery and flowers were placed in all directions.  The brunch was lovely and Hayley was so happy.  Sister Connie was too.  She and the grand lady have been the best of friends for a long while. 
I thought of Connie and what a special time this was for her .  She too, is facing a new season. I am glad that Hayley will be her neighbor .  I know that Hayley will be just fine-and so will Connie.  All of the guests were friendly , but I was especially glad to see dear Stephanie. 
I loved her the first time I met her-and her darling son.  We have so much in common.  Stephanie is very bright and has such interesting conversations. 
I knew that Stephanie was as in awe of the place, as I was.  We were both delighted when “Lady Jackie” offered to give us a tour. 
Every room was decorated perfectly.  The staircase in itself was a work of art.  Jackie certainly had a flair for  choosing just the right pieces, and  I was convinced her home should be show cased in a magazine.  As we toured, she shared the history of the home, which was also impressive.  I just loved that house . . and  the “Lady Jackie”.
When we all finally left, the first thing that I said, was “I feel like I have been on a holiday!”
The next day, I decided to make pasta.  I have never done so-and do not have a single gadget for the endeavor.  I like doing things by hand, but goodness the kneading was a work!  The dough is stiff and requires at least ten minutes of vigorous kneading.  I served it last night.  It was good enough to make again.   . .and I do not intend  to buy a machine. but  I do intend to practice more.    . .I have also been making ice cream. 
I do not have any sort of churn, but a hand mixer works.  There are just a very few ingredients necessary, but how lovely to make whatever kind you desire.  The hardest thing about it . .is waiting  for it to freeze!   
These simple things-along with rooting all sorts of plants- have really helped me avoid those awful doldrums, I was experiencing. 
The closing for the house, is scheduled for Thursday, therefore, that has kept me busy too.  I have at least another load of things to collect, and then I want to clean the place up a bit. 
Conclusion to a love affair, is tricky business.  Being very sentimental, does not help, one iota.  When I moved there, fifteen years ago, I could not have possibly imagined, that so much love, would spring up, in my time there.   . .and that is what I tell myself now about the next place.  I might just fall in love again . .   .it wouldn’t be the first time. 
Now, on   the eve of the closing, I am exhausted, excited and grateful, all at once.  Had it not been for my sisters, Mama and niece Dana-and Christian, I could not have accomplished all that had to be done. 
I came home today, to about fifteen flower pots filled with flowers from my grandmother, neighbors passed and a dear aunt.  They also raked the yard!  I am so awed by their love. 
I am also grateful for the years I had with the first rabbitpatch.  I learned so much while there and did a lot of healing, too.  It seemed to demand a certain “way’ of living just to be there.  I coined it “the rabbitpatch” way, for I did live amongst a thriving community of wild rabbits.  They owned the  young woods in the far corner, after all. 
The remnants of a farm served as a shelter for many of my loved ones.  I also met some of the finest folks.  The soil fed us and I declare now, that I have seen  raw and pure beauty.  I have trod on a blessed path and did not find it lacking.  Oh, what parting gifts, that path provided! 
Living on that rabbitpatch,  really –was time well spent.