When A Tree Whispers


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I don’t know of a tree that I don’t like.  I especially love old trees.  I don’t see an old tree without being glad for who ever planted it, be it man or God.  I love  the flowering varieties, from the elegant magnolia to the mimosas on the ditchbanks.  When in bloom, they fill the air up with sweetness so unselfishly.  The fruit trees -well, they do it all and I love them for it.. .There is also a tree that whispers.

The long leaf pine is scattered around the rabbit patch.  They of course, are evergreens.  I  always cut branches of pine at Christmas and decorate the old house with them.  They are a simple sight to behold in vases and wreaths with some holly and a bow-but I like the pine.  It smells like Christmas, even in July.  When the wind blows through a pine, it does not rustle, but whispers in a hushed way.  No other tree can sing like a long-leaf pine.  The pine sings a lullaby.

Not everyone is a fan of the pine tree.  They are likely to topple over in severe weather and they drop cones steadily-but the song of the pine “covers a multitude of sins”  for me.  I heard the whisper when I was a very young child.  That was a long time ago and  the world was a lot quieter then.

In those days, we could hear a car coming a mile away.  The men could listen and say who it was.  Daddy knew when they needed to change the spark plugs.  If it was a stranger, the men would say “somebody in a Ford is coming.”  There was an old church not too far away and I remember my sister and I sitting outside listening to them sing.  I don’t know what kind of Church it was, but when you hear hymns coming across a field it’s so beautiful you will never forget it.  I always woke up to tractors in distant fields  as a child  and to this day, I love to hear that far away rumble. It reminds me of home. We knew the songs of the birds when we were so little and I doubt that is considered important now, but it was then.  It was just as important as nursery rhymes and Bible verses and I am glad , because when I remember a nursery rhyme, I remember the voice that taught me.

I suppose my cousins and I made the  the only racket on those peaceful farms.  We played hard after supper, while the adults shelled beans or peas.  We played til we were really tired and always ended up sitting  on the ground and talking til it got dark. We would share the secrets we learned about from the adults when they were unaware.  We would call truce on any disputes that had arisen.  No one was allowed to stay mad because it made it hard on the rest of us.  The night breeze would stir the pines up and we would listen to the whispering .  You can see the stars  shine through pine needles.  We would all get real quiet though we didn’t plan on it.  At some point, we would hear clanging buckets and then our names shouted out frantically by several adults who seemed to just be remembering they had children.  We ran like our lives depended on it, because in some way-it did.

If you sit by a pine in the daytime, you are liable to see a redbird.  Redbirds love the whispering pine.  If you sit by a pine in the evening, when a soft breeze blows, you are liable to hear their song and rest assured, it will be a lullaby.  No other tree  sings like the pine.13524547_284761731871336_2019812213595919537_n

 

 

 

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Cucumber Salad


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Cucumbers aren’t just for pickling or to be tossed in a salad in an unimportant fashion. The lowly cucumber has a salad all its’ own and worth bragging about.  I do not remember a summer that this wasn’t on the table.  Grandmama had a yellow kitchen table-one of those chrome ones that are considered fancy now .  The cucumber salad had every bit the importance of the salt and pepper on that table-it does go with everything. Here is the very simple recipe-

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Wash and remove most of the skin from the cucumbers, then slice them as thin as you can.  Chop a tomato in small pieces and add to the cucumbers. Stir in mayonnaise as you desire, but it ought to almost coat the mixture.  Season with garlic, salt and pepper.

Sometimes, radishes were added, thinly sliced.  I really like this combination.  You can also add onion-I like that too.  I have used dill.  My friend, Jo Dee says her mom added celery seed.  The lowly cucumber makes the salad, whatever you decide.  Remember that it will be better if you share it !

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*from “The green Grass Grows”

The Green Grass Grows


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Today, I am back at the rabbit patch,  where the air smells sweet, wild rabbits run about and the green grass grows all around.  The only thing that went wrong, while I was gone is that  Christopher Robin broke a cute little bird that sat on a pile of books and had been doing so a long while.  The last time  I was gone, he broke a favorite rabbit of mine-Christopher Robin does not like for me to leave the rabbit patch.

My youngest sons, Kyle and Christian, had held the fort down, other than the broken bird.  They are good housekeepers too. Cash was especially glad to see me. Christopher Robin was too and showed no trace of guilt.

I am only here a short while as I return to Wilmington with Jenny and her family for a week on Friday.  I have a lot to do while I am here.  I wish the garden  would grow in the same way the grass grows.  The yard here is about five acres and shows no mercy for me or my plans.  It’s a good thing I  like to mow .  It is a good time to think lofty thoughts or have a pipe dream.  I do both.  I know I will downsize one day, but I need a yard of some sort, when I do.  I need something to tend.  I need a place to grow roses and “Sweet Williams”.

Every season has something to boast about-the summer is passing with swagger, and rightfully so. The summer garden is hard to beat. A tomato in January, can not hold a candle to the ones picked in July, with zinnias growing around them.  It is a good thing to pick tomatoes in the evening when fireflies are flashing and honeysuckle is blooming.  Such conditions will make you linger and remember the summers past. 

The kitchen smells like summer just now.  A kind neighbor brought me about eight pounds of cucumbers.  He is generous like that and has been every year, as long as I have known him.  It is refreshing to have such a  neighbor.   The community around the rabbit patch is made up of nice folks.  He threw in a good “mess” of sweet corn too-sweet corn is one of the best things about summer.  We are in “high cotton” for supper tonight with sweet corn and cucumber salad.

There is something so pure about rural life.  It’s a shame there are so few farming communities left.  Mowing , gardening and preserving your own food gives one an understanding .  Last year, one of my dearest friends was going through a “rough patch”.  I listened to her predicament-it was heartbreaking. She was heart-broken.  She paused a bit and then declared “I think I am just going to make pickles today!”  She did.  It is a long process to make pickles. We laugh about it now, but I suppose it was as good a thing to do as any-and she did end up with twelve quarts of pickles.

Hanging clothes on a line works like a  charm to calm a weary heart.  I plan supper when I am doing so.  My daughter hangs cloth diapers on her line and it’s a lovely sight. When a shower pops up-there is a mad dash.  On those days, I am thankful for a dryer.

I am writing this entry in front of a window fan-another thing I love about summer.  Cash and Christopher Robin station themselves right in front of it.  It is as good as a slow rain to sleep by .

Summer time means a lot of things depending on where you live.  It is a celebrated season no matter what place you call “Home”.  At the rabbit patch, it means clotheslines and window fans.  It is the time when a kind neighbor shows up with cucumbers and sweet corn, and makes me glad that I live on this rabbit patch all over again with its’ old trees. . .  and the green grass that grows all around it.

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When Time is Just Ribbons of Sunlight


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The days in Wilmington pass in the same fashion as they do at the rabbit patch-without the help of a clock.  I watch the way shadows fall at the rabbit patch . I  see shade claiming the corner of the garden-and I know it’s time to start supper. In Wilmington, time is just ribbons of sunlight on the Atlantic that dance with a cheerful shine  and when they slow to a waltz, it’s time to go home.

My son, Tres came in last night from Charleston.  He lives in Wilmington, but his job sent him to Charleston for a while this summer.    Tres coming home, was the icing on my cake! We had “Sunday dinner” on Saturday at four o’clock.  It didn’t seem to be the least bit odd.   I am as happy as a lark  when I am in a kitchen ,on any given day .

I watched the boys walking back and forth to the pool  while I was cooking and saw once again, that they weren’t  boys   and hadn’t been for a long while.  It has been many years ago, that Tres pushed bright yellow trucks filled with rocks and sticks-and longer still since Brant combed every inch of the woods behind the house , naming the trees as he went.  He would bring back leaves in his pockets for me and we would press them in heavy books .  Mothers  set great store by such memories and  will think about them while they peel potatoes .

 took my own sweet time cooking dinner- I have done everything all week in the same manner.   The boys ate and declared it was just perfect, so all was right in my world-and it felt good.  We planned on a breakfast for Sunday morning-that is also the day Tres goes back to Charleston and I go back to the rabbit patch. I have missed my two youngest sons. I have missed Cash and Christopher Robin, too. I have even missed the smell of dirt and the way  the wind smells that has blown through the woods.

I will not leave Wilmington empty-handed but instead with a pocket full of sweet memories . I will remember the blue heron that visits the pond every morning and walks stealthily  around the banks  .  There is also a pair of geese, I have spent a fair amount of time watching glide around the water.  It was a sight full of such peace, that it made me drowsy on several occasions .  I got to know some cardinals that live in the wisteria vines at the edge of the woods.  It took them a while to realize there was no harm in me, but when they did, they were quite friendly.   I read some poetry-Longfellow, Frost and Yeats-always Yeats. I didn’t write as much as I had expected, but instead stared “through the looking glass” on the pond for somewhere between twenty minutes and twenty years,  watching the clouds pass by.  I will remember that my boys cast the shadow of young men-and that they walk with confidence-those were golden moments.  There was so much to do with my liberty and I was determined to use it wisely.  

 My account of the last five days may sound “sleepy”.  There are no crimes or politics to read about nor any heartbreaking going on, the diary of the rabbit patch is not intended for such purposes-but I know some of the secrets of the pond and woods out back and I have seen diamonds without measure.  Ones without price ,that shimmer with a shine not found in any store.  You do not need fame or fortune to bear witness to their dazzle. These diamonds give no honor to worldly ranking . No man can bury them and no one can steal them, yet they are there for the taking.   They abide on lazy rivers, lowly ponds and on the vast Atlantic ocean.  I have seen them . . .in little ribbons of sunlight that fall on the waters in a generous manner-and I am better because of it. 

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In the Absence of Fields


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I am away from the rabbit patch, right now.  I am by the sea-and in the absence of fields.  I am just a few hours away from my country dwelling, but it is a different place altogether with it’s streets full of cars , air full of salt and  its’ “big shining water”.  My niece Hayley and I are visiting my first -born, Brant for a few days. 

Wilmington is a fancy place -especially when compared to the rabbit patch. It  has historical significance and the charm that goes with it.  It is  rich in cultural arts. The residents come from everywhere and they come bearing  their unique gifts .  It is a friendly place by the sea and I like that.  Still, I think my Brant, is the best thing that Wilmington has going for it.

I expect to spend my days here writing and cooking-two of my favorite things.  The yard at Brant’s townhouse is well-manicured and tended by a staff.  There is not a garden on the premises either.  It seems I am left to my own devices as I am the only one without an agenda.  I brought a few books along as there is a pool to read by and the grounds are a lovely place to take a walk.   I think that the chances of a neighbor showing up with a bushel of stringbeans or cucumbers are pretty slim too, so I must resort to a life of leisure for a while.

I do not drive while in Wilmington.  Thank goodness that Hayley is not hindered in the least by all of the activity in the street.  The best I can tell. ..  everybody is late for something and think they have nine lives.  It is most unpleasant for me to even ride along in such chaos.  Hayley, however sings along with the radio and takes great notice of the shops as we are zipping along-unless it says “ice-cream” I am unaware.  I come back alittle shattered and am convinced that I am an old lady, after all! My commute to work is fifteen minutes through fields and horse farms-and I am very glad about it.

I am a firm believer that isolation is a missing factor in most of our lives.  I make it a priority to have some of it daily, but several days  of writing without interruption and reading til I simply don’t want to anymore, is a happy, but inconceivable notion. I will wonder about a lot of things during my “holiday”. I will call old friends  and write pretty cards.  I will write in Lyla’s journal-and in my own too.  I will visit the ancient oak on one of my walks, which is surely sacred and grows  just a bit away from Brant’s front door. I will cook a “Sunday dinner” on a Wednesday, and make a cake too. 

Best of all, I will have conversations with Brant on late evenings.  We will sit by a pond , with a splashing fountain, outside of his back door.  There is also a small patch of woods with wisteria still blooming!  I will listen to his dreams and he will hear mine.  We will talk about our yesterdays and  the hope of times yet to come.  I will look at this beautiful human,  generous and kind in spirit-a lover of all living things-and  who has enough charm to brag about, and be glad he is my own son.

These are the kinds of things I wish to tuck deep in my heart, for a cold day in January -and again, when ice is falling on the rabbit patch on the longest night of the year and the earth is sleeping through it.  . . I will remember  my time well-spent in early summer away from the rabbit patch and

in the absence of fields.

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The Time of the Strawberry Moon


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The sound of a “strawberry moon”  sounded like a beautiful event-but it did not start out in that manner at the rabbit patch.  It was the kind of morning that seemed determined to make you think the whole day might be full of  aggravating moments-and it was for a good while. One thing went wrong and then another, but around two o’clock, things took a turn.

I finally made it to my parent’s, having fixed most of what had gone wrong.  My sister and niece from Raleigh were there. Jenny and Lyla were too.  I had already seen my sister and niece, from the Lake in the morning, so things were looking up.

Mama had done her best to have a good meal on the table-and she did.  It was eaten in shifts though, as things had been a bit “off” for everybody in general. Some of them were eating at two, when I got there.  Lyla was sitting in the same high chair that I used to sit in!  Jenny said she had been a rascal all morning, but she was pleasant and cheerful at her great grandparents home.  

We ended up in the yard just after the last of us had eaten.  The shade was so cool and Lyla sat in a swing taking it all in making Jenny look like “a storyteller”.  Daddy was doing maintenance on my car for a while -he was  “born a mechanic”, and remains convinced that I am as irresponsible as ever when it comes to any sort of task involving tools.  He is right. He joined us afterwards, and we sat there a long time.  Jenny had school assignments to do, but she put it off, which is not her nature-but I am glad she did.   It has been a long time that we have all sat in the shade together-four generations, and none of us had another thing pressing.  There were other things that needed doing, but for a while , none of us cared.  Once upon  time,  the act of sitting in the shade with the family was a common occurrence -it was about a daily ritual, unless it rained.  

The adults would sit talking while the children ran around.  We were not allowed in the circle when we were playing games that involved dashing and hollering-and mostly that is what was happening.  Even if you went in to retrieve a ball, we were accused of “disturbing the peace” and those were the exact words.   If you stayed with the adults more than five minutes, you ended up shelling beans  and I  avoided that.  If you ran in the shade to tattle or whine, you had to take a bath and get ready for bed.  We kids learned to solve our own problems.  I remembered that time yesterday and wondered how it had ceased.  I felt very sorry it had.  Sometimes, it seems to me, that modern living , with all of the advantages it offers, is just a” wolf in sheeps’ clothing.”

I don’t know how long we stayed under the shade tree yesterday.  I do know we moved the chairs and the swing twice to avoid the bright sunshine.  I know that daddy’s dog, Casper chased a ball til he was tired, much to Lyla’s delight.  I saw my mama so happy to enjoy this time.  She was completely content and I understood.  Lyla “took a shine ” to my fourteen year old niece, Dana and Dana was happy about that.  My Jenny got to sit and rest.  She never had to chase Lyla, the rest of us did and took great satisfaction in keeping leaves, bark and flowers out of her mouth.

Last night, I went out to see the “strawberry moon”.  I really like that name, though the strawberry season is over, here.  It seems like a named moon is a special one.  It was lovely, and the Cherokee did great justice in bestowing such a sweet name .  I stood in the moonshine and declared I did not understand why the morning time was so hateful.  I also declared that the first afternoon  of the summer was too beautiful for words and that I was grateful for it.  I love the moon light.  It has such a way about it that it can make an old pile of wood  look like a  magical place where fairies surely dwell.  I thought to walk back to the field of clary sage behind the big barn.  I wasn’t sorry.  The long and mostly white spikes of blossoms shone fairly in the soft light.  It was like witnessing a secret wonder and as far I know, only me and the whippoorwill were in on it.

So I spent a fair amount of time yesterday,  sitting in the shade with people I love.  I watched a dog chase a ball and heard Lyla laugh about it. I saw mama “sitting pretty” and daddy feeling satisfied.  My sister and niece, loved my grand daughter and claimed their place in her life.  It turns out that the time of the “strawberry moon” was just as beautiful as it sounded. It was a lovely time  and a nice way to spend some of my life.

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While Clouds Passed Over the Rabbit Patch


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The last Friday of spring dawned gray over the rabbit patch.  I dismissed my plans to mow as it was damp and grass will clump and look untidy under such conditions.  It was a good time to pull grass from around the flowers and I did so for a while.  I watched the clouds passing over the rabbit patch. There was no hurry in them-and I knew it meant rain.  At that moment I had a notion to make a cake.

I called a few friends .  They agreed that it was a good day to eat cake.  We decided on a time-which was “afternoon”,so no one would have to worry about being late-(there is no “late” at the rabbit patch.)  I gathered what I needed to make a chocolate raspberry cake, and then I took to the woods for elderberry.  I was determined to fill a vase with those fragrant, graceful blossoms that the Irish hold so dear.  The woods were “lovely, dark and deep” but that did little to comfort me.  I kept a watchful eye out for snakes and regretted not inviting Cash on the venture, quickly.  I found wild strawberries and blackberries. They have a sinful amount of thorns but I cut some anyway.  They scratched me without mercy and I disturbed a family of rabbits in the process.  They made such a ruckus in the bramble, I was convinced it was a snake and it took me a minute to recover.  I cut some honeysuckle and thought how pretty that would be with the elderberry.  I was halfway down the path and hadn’t seen elderberry, but I smelled it.  It was getting hot and mosquitoes were buzzing about.  I knew my friends did not expect me to take such measures, but elderberry has a short season of blooms, and there is nothing else like them.  I hoped I didn’t get ticks-or redbugs.  Thank goodness I am not allergic to poison vines.  I finally found the elderberry.  It was growing in a thicket  so overgrown that I don’t even think the rabbits could get through it-let alone me.  I resorted to  roses and gardenias, which were growing in more civilized places.  I had  gathered quite a bouquet and  knew it would require a large vase.  I arranged them while the cake was cooking.

The kitchen floor was littered with small leaves and twigs, and I was a mess- and needed to check for ticks.  Somehow I got the floor scrubbed and myself presentable by afternoon.  Things took a turn, and Rae was the only one that made it.  We ate a lot of cake on little china plates- being I had gone to so much trouble and we talked a good long while.  I have been knowing Rae almost thirty years.  Our children were young then, and so were we.  There is an “understanding” between us and mere words won’t do it justice,  but it is beautiful and solid-it is genuine and precious and my heart is grateful for it.

We strolled leisurely around the rabbit patch afterwards. I showed her the acres of clary sage in the fields behind the barn.  I also showed her the sad state of the garden.  I learned that she calls running vinca “snow on the mountain” and I like that name better.  I showed her the “see through” flowers.  As we strolled from flower to flower, we wondered aloud about some things.  There is no risk when we speak our truth. A friendship, that has spanned decades, is of great comfort.  Life changes are unsettling no matter your age.  I often say, that now  that the kids are grown up, I feel as if I am fourteen again, unsure of how to proceed and needing to find my identity all over again. 

The sky was silver over the rabbit patch when Rae left.  Light had changed very little over the course of the day and it truly seemed timeless without shadows and sunlight.  I went back in the kitchen.  It was a pretty table after all, even without the elderberry.  I washed the china plates and felt happy as I did it.  Only, the cake tattled that a wonderful occasion had taken place earlier, right here in the kitchen, while the clouds passed over the rabbit patch.

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