The “Morning Table” in my home appears to be ordinary furniture. It is a small round table that sits on a lyre pedestal. The morning table is positioned by a window and holds things I need to write, books I am reading , a lamp and a coffee cup. I watch the light change at the morning table, while Cash and Christopher Robin sleep close by. I write what is laid on my heart at this little second-hand table. The morning table is like an old friend that knows your dreams and keeps your secrets.
I have had the habit of writing for a very long time. I have journals of letters written to each of my children as they were growing up-and with five children, that is a lot of writing. I can only write truth, I have learned-and I can only write what I find ” good”. In this way, I have ended up with a collection of little celebrations and records of things that I love. I find myself looking, at any given moment for things to add to my accounts-and I have found this a good practice. It seems we often find what we are looking for, I think, so it may as well be something pleasant.
I have learned to find great delight in kind words, sometimes spoken by strangers as well as the cheerful boasting of a mockingbird singing in June. I love the hushed sound of children playing in the snow-well, I just love snow altogether, it falls so seldom at the rabbit patch. I love the smell of woodsmoke in October. I love rain and Thanksgiving. I really love the Christmas season-even wrapping the presents. I love the sky at all times and I love poetry. I love a lot of things and I am always realising more beautiful things to love –out of habit.
The night was foggy when I went out tonight. I could see but a few stars. The night choir did not offer a song and the air had not the slightest motion. Now, I know there is a beauty in silent stillness. There was more life in those moments than I had expected and I will remember that too, as part of my collection.
Living on the rabbit patch has humbled me with its’ extraordinary simplicity. I do not have to live in a frantic state for I have seen the Hand of the artist, and It never rests or ceases in generosity. The “morning table” is the place I remember these things . It is from the “morning table” that I send my love letters out for the world-my account of things I find “good.”
The rabbit patch in August, is not as tidy as it was in July. Grass grows unhindered where it ought not to-and the garden is almost abandoned. Vegetables are in the pantry now or packaged up in the freezer. There are no sightings of bunnies in the evenings and the nests of the summer birds are filling up with leaves. The songs of the night are hushed-and last night, I smelled the corn drying in the heavy air.
If summer was a book, August would be the last chapter-the one read hurriedly, the conclusion of all that happened before it-But August has a story, all its’ own and it is a story worth telling. There is too much to do and see in August, than to just spend it waiting for pumpkins. There are the morning glory flowers, after all. They are a cheerful lot-especially if they are the blue variety. Many consider them as lowly as violets, but I love violets too. When the yellow butterflies of August flutter around a morning glory vine, it is an affair to notice. Morning glory, true to its’ name, makes a “big production” of the morning time and it is over by noon. The butterfly knows this and heeds the morning light as an invitation to attend,with great haste. The other flowers in the rabbit patch do not impose such consequences-and the butterfly knows this too.
The “Quiet Garden” in August, is going slowly about its’ business these days. New roses are more seldom now and there are barely enough of them to fill a vase these days, yet the serenity remains. The “Quiet Garden” is as steadfast as a sister.
The flowers in the rabbit patch bear certain colors at certain times. Now , the landscape is shades of purple, yellow and blue. The lantana sums it all up with its’ clusters of little flowers that are delightful combinations of these colors of August.
I went out last night, in to the heavy air of late summer. It was a still and moonless night. I smelled the corn drying in the fields . Just before the harvest, you can do so but only if the air hangs thick. The thought “dawned upon me” that I spend a good deal of time, in August, thinking about September. I so love the time when chrysanthemums and pumpkins are scattered over the rabbit patch. I love the world when you need a sweater in the morning and a light blanket at night. The next thing I know, I am thinking of the first soup I will make and the first fire Kyle will build in the wood heater -and then I am well on the way to Thanksgiving and lighting candles.
I must remember that August has a story to tell all its’ own. While the roses rest, sapphire blossoms are growing on vines. Evening comes a little quicker than it did in July, its’ heavy air filled with a soft melody and carrying the smell of corn in a field a mile away, ready for harvesting. Butterflies are on the wing like a silent commotion and make me remember that there is more to August, than just waiting for pumpkins.
School started back today for me. Soon bells will be ringing and children will be singing. There will be schedules and clocks for me-and Friday will not seem as ordinary as it was last week. The days have even cooled a bit as if nature itself is propelling me in to a higher gear.
As I was driving home today, I saw butterflies in shades of yellow, all along the drive . The sky was a very bright blue and provided a lovely contrast to the golden wings fluttering about. When I got home, there were all sorts of butterflies at the rabbit patch. I checked the ginger lilies again, but they show no sign of participating in August. I will hope that by September, they will have changed their mind.
I got in a mid-week visit with Jenny and Lyla. Mama cooked supper for all of us, the night before school started. It came about at the last minute, but you couldn’t tell as it was a wonderful meal that ended with “an apple roll” like my great-grandmother made. Recipes defy time, I realised. They are big pieces of a familys’ history-passed down like precious relics. Most often, they are served with a story. It has been about a hundred years ago, that Carrie Hodges, the belle of three counties, made her first apple roll, I bet. Six generations later, we are still talking about it around the supper table. That is something to consider.
After supper, Lyla wanted to go outside. She prefers birds and sticks over toys. She loves a swing, too. She and I sat together on the front porch and were quite content. Of course, I know a song about swings and I always sing it at such times. Lyla would clap her hands at the finale and give me the smile that melts my heart. It was her way of saying “thank you”, I thought. It sure was a pleasant way to spend a Wednesday evening and I imagine that grandmothers have been doing this same thing for as long as they have been making apple rolls.
We are surely in the twilight of the summer season. Colors are changing in the rabbit patch. The fireflies left a while ago and the “autumn joy” flowers that Miss Susie gave me a few years back are full of blossoms. The apples are gone from my trees, and the grapes are turning dark purple by the moment. It will be just a little while, before a ripe garden tomato is hard to find. The rabbit patch does not consult a calendar on when to herald in a new season and I am not inclined to do so either. Summer may meander , for all I know. . .and the ginger lilies may bloom after all.
Yesterday was an especially beautiful day at the rabbit patch. I spent most of the day outside mowing, so I saw the bright and clear sky and I felt the slight coolness in the air. Dry leaves are starting to fall and float so gracefully in the breeze and late summer flowers are blooming. I saw the springs’ bunnies, now agile young rabbits and I listened to secrets-told by the trees.
Seasons do not come and go with mystery. They do not sneak up on you with surprise but instead give long farewells, Summer is doing that now. The loosetrife is coming in to its’ glory. The pale lavender spikes remind me of watercolors while the rudbeckia blossoms are so bright they seem to make noise. The ageratum seems shy now. I found more of it yesterday, hiding out by the proud rose-of -sharons.
The grass grows as it always does. It matters little that school has started, to the green grass of the rabbit patch. It grows fiercely til the frost comes, sometime in mid October.
The trees are just beginning to drop leaves now. Yellow leaves were floating here and there yesterday. They float with such grace until they find their destiny. It is like a ballet in the air and it is beautiful to watch. A tree will tell you secrets of the spring at this time. Nests built with diligence in April are showing up now. They are quiet places and filled with all sorts of litter. I saw one yesterday with a single leaf in it and it seemed like an abandoned house to me. I wondered who had lived there and where did they go? As I saw another one and then one more, I started to feel lonely! The song of birds no longer wake me up, I realised suddenly. When did the morning get quiet at the rabbit patch, I wondered.
When I mowed by the pecan trees, I saw they were bare. Pecan trees are like that. They are apt to take a rest ever so often. They are doing so this year. I don’t blame them a bit, though Kyle will be disappointed. He picks up pecans in the fall and sells them. It is hard work to pick up pecans -and it is slow work .
When I got to the grapevines yesterday, I noticed some of the grapes had ripened. It is a habit of country dwellers to pick a few while mowing. It may seem an odd practice, but everybody I know does it. I will not need a basket anytime soon,but it is good to know that at some point I will. When the grapes ripen, the air smells as sweet as it ever does.
I have spent many childhood summers under a grapevine. The shade of a grapevine is the coolest I know of. The branches hang low in summer and creates a playhouse or a fort ,if needed. Delores and I preferred a playhouse. We took benches from a picnic table, tea sets and dolls and set up housekeeping. We invented dramas that lasted for days. If one doll got sick, another would soon after. When the dolls were naughty, we blamed each other for not tending to them properly. Our dolls made good grades in school, won contests and said their prayers. Delores and I “cooked” leaves and sticks and served mudcakes decorated with small rocks. It was not unusual to remember a doll that had been left, and had to be rescued at late hours. We were sure they were scared or in some great danger and would convince mama of this as well. Those were sweet times and I remember them with great fondness every time I mow around a grapevine.
I am cooking Sunday Dinner now, but it is a slow cooked meal, and I have been able to linger around the “morning table” because of that. I plan to serve the cake while it is still warm, because mama and daddy liked it like that last week. Cash and Christopher Robin are sleeping by the window fan while I write. Jenny and Lyla are coming this week-so I am content beyond measure.
Tonight when I go out and stand under the last moon of summer, I will announce my gratitude-for I have seen a mid-air ballet, a world adorned with flowers and I have listened to secrets told to me by trees. It has been been a lovely time. . . and it all happened at the rabbit patch, in the last few days.
School started officially, for me today. I no longer linger at the “morning table” drinking coffee for as long as I please and watching the light change. As much as I love to rise early-it takes a while for me to “shine”. I especially do not like to rush in the mornings, so I plan accordingly, the night before to avoid any ruckus at the start of the day.
I like to get to work early, and I did so today. I have a beautiful drive to work down country roads and I take note of things-like the horses grazing in quiet pastures. I look at the large expanse of sky over the fields. I love the slanted shadows of the first part of the day. Morning is a beautiful time. I always “hope for the best” in the morning.
I am homesick for the rabbit patch, when school starts back. The sentimental Irish in me shows up every year and I wonder all sorts of things. I think about Christopher Robin, and Cash if he’s not with me. I think about Jenny and Lyla-and they just seem further away. I look forward to supper and comfortable “house clothes” in the evening. For a while, I feel like I am missing something that is very important. When the children come back to school, things turn around, or else I would surely be the first person to perish from “homesickness” just fifteen minutes from the house.
When my children were young, I heard a little boy play a violin in Church. He was a tiny , cute little boy and it was just adorable. I asked his mama casually, after church where he learned to play. She told me about a method of music instruction in Greenville, a larger town, with a university, just thirty minutes away. The method was intended for very young children and was called “Suzuki” as the Japanese founder was Dr. Suzuki. I loved music and played guitar a little. I was “home-schooling”, which in the early eighties, was considered radical-but it meant I had the time for Brant to have instruction. This method relies heavily on parents learning to play too-and so I did. I will not go in to all of the details, but I fell in love. Now, I teach over two hundred children, at our school.
I never planned on any of this. When my husband, died over a decade ago, I quit teaching privately and went to work at the school. As it turns out, the violin has fed my children and provided shelter, too, ever since. Looking back, it seems like a beautiful plan unfolded-in a divine fashion. I did not “make water come out of that rock.”
It is for this reason that I set a clock for early these days. When I was young, the adults used to wake us kids up with the words”rise and shine!” Their voices were always cheerful and sometimes mama would sing a “good morning to you” song, as well, with her clear soprano voice. It was always impossible for us kids to get up before the adults when I was growing up. Pop got up at all hours during the night, when he was “curing tobacco, so he could check on the barns, but he was up before me anyway. I remember waking up to the smell of coffee and bacon on dark winter mornings and hearing “rise and shine” ringing through out that little farmhouse. The little room I slept in was right off the kitchen and the heavy quilts that kept me warm, were the same ones that kept my mama warm, when she was a girl.
This happened a long time ago, but I can still clearly remember the voicesthat woke me with song and inspiration. . So I drive past the quiet pastures with horses grazing- and past the fields while the light is changing – with my old violin and some ” rabbit patch shine”. . . and I hear my mama singing “this is the way to start a new day”.
Tonight I will wish on the last moon of the summer. Already, I have seen dry leaves scattered about the rabbit patch. The corn is turning light brown in the fields and the nests built in the spring are no longer tended, but instead are silent trinkets of the spring.
Today was one of the last days of the summer holiday. I spent the afternoon at my parents. My sister, Delores was down from Raleigh. We did not sit in the shade together on this day. It was just too hot. Maybe the only thing that I will not miss about summer is the hateful heat that is conjured up. We managed to have a good visit right there in the den, anyway.
I left just in time to fix supper . Already the ageratum is starting to bloom, I noticed. The rabbit patch is full of the sky blue, little flowers. Like violets in the spring, you are liable to find ageratum anywhere on the rabbit patch. When paired with the bright yellow rudbekia, you have a striking picture of late summer. I am fond of flowers that aren’t so organized in appearance-blossoms that happen along the picket fence or at the edge of the woods, lend such grace to territory.
Cash and Christopher Robin know something is up. They have watched me going through the farmhouse, cleaning and yet, no company in sight! They have watched me gather things in piles and load the car up. Cash wants to get in the car everytime. He does go to school with me a lot throughout the year. Our school is very pet friendly. Christopher Robin is nervous about the whole affair. He was content with the way things were and that makes good sense as he spent most of the summer sleeping in front of the window fan in a house without clocks.
I remember starting school when I was young. The first year was very hard on me. Right off the bat, I was put in a “low” class. I hadn’t any “formal” training -no preschool, no kindergarten so I was bound to be “slow”. How could they know about the World Books in Pop and Grandmas’ book case? They were unaware that I could count eggs and money. They didn’t know that on Fridays I was very instrumental in every farm hand getting their fair share of wages as I helped out and learned how to write in the accounts book, even-all before school. I knew every nursery rhyme by heart and I knew what a cup of sugar was.
The teacher was sweet in the “low” class even when I took to “yelling out” answers. I remember that well. I knew about “raising your hand” and I was quick when she asked what letters were or she needed the answer to the simplest math equations. It seemed a big waste of time to me listening to the kids stumbling and guessing-so sometimes when it was unbearable-I yelled out the answer. I had to sit in the “lonesome chair” on several occasions . I felt like school was so different from real life and I missed the farm. I would look out the window while the class was trying to figure out what a “B was and how it related to ball” and would wonder if Pop was plowing. You couldn’t smell dirt in town. I wondered what grandma was cooking for dinner and how she was doing it without me. The food at school smelled peculiar and I hated when they had spanish rice. Once a girl threw up after eating it and I felt that proved my theory that we were eating “scraps”. . but they kept right on serving it. I did love the library. The librarian was a friend of grandmas’ and she was grouchy. She didn’t want to hear about the books you read. She acted like every book was hers’ and you were LUCKY she let you borrow one. If a book came back damaged, I felt sure she would call the police. I told grandma that her friend was hateful and she laughed. In a few short weeks, I got moved to the “high” class. The teacher asked me if I wanted to go to the library on an extra trip and I was thrilled. When it was over, I was told I wouldn’t be going back to “my class” but would stay with this new class. It was the first time in all of my life that I felt betrayed. I did love the children and the library-and the “government” said I had to be there, so I made the best of it.
Delores waited for the schoolbus faithfully in the afternoons. Sometimes, she had a pony saddled with her, ready for me. I can see her clearly -my beautiful little sister smiling at my return with her “present” for me. She is still like that today, She always has a present of some sort when I see her.
When I stand in the shine of the last moon of summer, I remember such things. The summer has been full of good things for me-it always has been.
Thoughts and memories change with seasons, at least mine do. I do not think of the same things nor dream the same way through out the year. This is especially true for those country dwellers who tend gardens and burn wood. People like me that live in old houses with massive yards full of old trees watch the seasons change with a keen awareness of the slightest changes- told to us by nature.
In late summer, I take stock of the woodpile. We hardly ever build a fire til the latter part of October, at the earliest,- still, it is good to know where you stand on the matter, in late summer. I look at the “burnpile” at the back of the rabbit patch. A burnpile is a collection of debris collected in summer storms, to be burned on an early autumn evening when rabbits aren’t raising bunnies. For some reason rabbits love to set up housekeeping in a burnpile. Usually, I invite company when we burn as extra hands help tend the fire-and we all enjoy it.
Barns get cleaned out in late summer. I helped Jo Dee clean out one yesterday. Jo Dee is a “barn-keeper” of this shed. She uses the little barn, but does not own it. We cleaned it out yesterday-for almost twelve hours . The heat was about unbearable. I reckon it is safe to say that our friendship is solid as we survived the weary work without a cross word spoken. It was a testament of authentic friendship and I cooked Sunday dinner in bedroom shoes today, because of it. Believe me when I say that Jo Dee is as deserving as anybody I know, and has carried me when “I had barns that needed cleaning”.
It is hard to think of sweaters and gloves in the August heat. I always go through the closet and make sure that things are in order. There is nothing trendy hanging on racks to improve my image, so style is not the determining factor in the contents of my discard pile. I remember my parents taking us to buy “school” clothes, when I was little. These clothes were for school only and we changed quickly when we got home from school, into “play” clothes. I never liked the shopping day. Daddy went and picked out the sturdiest pair of shoes in the store for me. They were always brown and looked like boys’ shoes to me. I couldn’t wear those shoes out . They lasted through all sorts of inclement weather. My feet were warm and dry in those ugly shoes, without fail. When I grew up, my mom told me a story that changed my heart towards those little brown shoes that I got every year. Daddy grew up poor. He was raised nobly, but without money. He had to walk several miles to and from school on dirt roads. He had one pair of shoes. To make them last, he carried those shoes on the walks back and forth. He put them on just before he got to school. Daddy cared about my feet and wanted me to have the best shoes sold-and it wasn’t his fault that they were always brown. I remember this story in late summer with a sense gratitude for having a father that showed his love in buying little brown shoes in late summers, long ago.
Today, at Sunday Dinner, I realised who I was dining with all over again. My car is twenty years old and my winter coat is second hand- and it is not going in the discard pile-but, I was born from nobility. My mom told me this, when I could understand it, in her wisdom , that my daddy loved even the feet of his child.
When the first of the dry leaves begin to fall and tiny pumpkins grow on vines,- it is the time to clean barns and watch sunflowers bloom . . . and it is also a time I am glad to remember those little brown shoes.