In small ways, autumn is making its’ presence known. Mornings are cool and dimly lit. Nightfall comes earlier, ending days of fog and mist. Rain has been a constant threat and shows up often. A pumpkin now sits where the irises bloomed and chrysanthemums grace the old porch. A soft, little light shines through the mist like a cheerful greeting and it does my heart good to see it .
A stillness has settled on the rabbit patch the last few days. The trees seem so solemn when there is not even the slightest breeze. The morning fog has no hurry about it, but hangs about in the air like a spell . Mist is a quiet affair and lends an air of enchantment to bare fields and old barns. . . and pumpkins.
In September, I bring ageratum flowers in the old farmhouse. They are small periwinkle colors and pair well with the bright yellow swamp flowers. I take inventory of all the blankets and quilts too. I take note of the woodpile-this year it is lacking and I must attend to that. The garden is officially over in September-and the roses have slowed down too.
Years ago, I was in an antique store and spotted some china with a dainty fall pattern. I have a weakness for such things and so upon further inspection, I saw it was a partial set and moved along. Weeks later, I was in the same store and once again admired them. The owner is a friend of mine and she said I ought to get them as I liked them-and at a great price. I told her it was a partial set and I couldn’t use it. She laughed and told me it was a dessert set. I left without them anyway. At some point, I was reading Better Homes & Gardens, and there was an article on dessert sets, popular in the fifties. Apparently, when a woman got a notion to make a cake, she would call her friends and serve it on pretty little china plates with coffee in pretty little china cups in those days.
I thought about this custom and knew I was meant for it. I imagined how many problems were solved at these gatherings. I bet advice was traded on everything from sewing to gardening-from cooking to soothing a fussy baby. Modern times hardly allow such occasions without a lot of commotion to arrange it. I got the set anyway and am happy to say I use it-in the autumn. Twice, on a whim, it worked out, that I just decided to make a cake and called some friends, who were glad I did. It is a lovely setting and complete after all.
September, with its’ rain and fog is all but over, yet it does not leave me empty handed, but instead with lasting parting gifts. In September, my thoughts turn to home and hearth. In the kitchen, the lowly ageratum that grows on ditch banks and all over the rabbit patch too, becomes a centerpiece. . . and the porch has flowers, a pumpkin and a little light that shines through the mist. September is a lovely time at the rabbit patch-and my heart is grateful for it.
Yesterday was the kind of day I want to always remember. It was the best of times. I did not win the lottery nor was bestowed any title of honor-those would have been lesser deeds in my moments. I left the old house on the rabbit patch in an old car. I came back the same way to the same place-yet I knew for certain, that I was wealthy, yesterday, and that my life far exceeds what “the world” deems successful.
Jenny was in a wedding yesterday, so Lyla and I stayed at my parent’s house for several hours, til the newlyweds were officially married and had danced for a long while afterwards. Meanwhile, I was attending an event, that I realised soon enough, was every bit a celebration and every bit as sacred as the one, Jenny was attending.
Mama had Lyla in a wagon, when I got there. It was sweet sight to come across and it just made me happy. I am older now and know little for certain, but a great grandmother pulling a wagon with her grand daughter’s child in it, is a thing of beauty.
Daddy was outside in a few minutes of my arrival looking under the hood of my car. He checked everything and declared the car a safe way to get around, after all. Daddy is eighty one years old and I am in my late fifties, and that did not matter.
In less than fifteen minutes, I had seen authentic and everlasting love in my parents and their “ordinary” ways.
Lyla walked around the yard and examined pine straw very carefully-she did the same with leaves. I did not rush her thoroughness, but instead joined in and saw that pine straw actually shines in sunlight. We watched a hive of honeybees at a safe distance. They were working frantically, as they know it is autumn, too. There was a quite a bit of activity. Lyla watched a while intently-and so I did too. I marveled that the whole affair was so well orchestrated. Humans would have surely been pushing and shoving one another -but the bees worked efficiently towards their purpose of “the greater good for all” and I took note of that.
After supper, I found mama and Lyla on a bed. Lyla was jumping as best she could and mama was laughing. Ever so often Lyla would stop and hug mama. Lyla was not tired after all, but was playing the way babies do and mama was laughing the way grandmothers do. It did not seem so long ago that Jenny had done the same thing- and then again it did.
I have lived in several houses in my life. I have worked at different jobs and driven many different cars. My phone number has changed several times over the years. Trends do not appeal to me and I do know that “all that glitters is not gold”. It is the things that remain constant that I value above all else, I realise . Authenticity does not change up, but shows up in the same familiar forms and in my life- in the same places-like the north star itself.
I do not know what the future holds. . . but I do know what the past held. For me, it is love, pure and simple. It is the one thing that I have been able to depend on and it is the only thing that even matters.
It rained on the first day of autumn at the rabbit patch. It rained all day, as it had, for several days before. The streets in the small town I work in, flooded and the rabbit patch became full of puddles and mud. When rain falls day after day, it seems to alter time. One day was as gray as the one before it and there seemed to be little evidence of when the morning ended . Afternoons became evenings and the evenings became night. It was almost mysterious, but in that way the days passed til now -and suddenly it is Autumn.
The calendar marks the day of the first day of autumn, but I will be glad when the dogwoods and sweetgums declare it themselves. When the wind blows with a coolness , enough to make me wear a sweater and the path in the young woods lays before me, golden-then will it be autumn at the rabbit patch. I will wait til woodsmoke claims the air and the pine trees yield straw- and I will know by that.
I am thankful to live where seasons change. I love something about every one of them. I don’t know that I can love one any more or less than the others , for each has a beauty that I declare is my favorite, when I am in the midst of it.
It is customary to decorate at the rabbit patch when a season arrives. A few yellow chrysanthemums and a few orange pumpkins will do the porch good. I have already hung a grapevine wreath with a scarlet ribbon and I tie ribbons on the bird feeders too, though country birds hardly ever attend one. They are an independent lot and do not “cotton” to fancy varieties of store-bought seeds, unless it snows. Until then, they are quite content with the french mulberry that grows wild in the woods.
Autumn time seems like a celebration of all the things before it, to me. The trees that have fed us and given us shade, when we needed it, will dress themselves up for the occasion of autumn. Trees in autumn are lovely things and they can convince the most solemn of folks to feel glad for the season. The morning fog can hold a lot of secrets, but it is no match for the brightness of golden leaves- for they show up anyway like candles in a dim room.
It is no wonder to me that Thanksgiving is celebrated in the fall. Everyday seems like a grand prelude that stirs gratitude in the heart til we must acknowledge the generosity of the earth itself. Autumn is “The Church in the Wildwood” that welcomes all- no matter how you find it.
Rain has fallen the last few days at the rabbit patch-and everywhere around it. The sidewalks end a long ways from the rabbit patch and the yard is muddy. The floors in the old farmhouse are too. I am about convinced that I have swept up a good acre of rabbit patch soil in the decade I have lived here.
Cash is most uncivilized on these occasions and carries on til he is thoroughly soiled. Christopher Robin looks on with a superior attitude and takes great satisfaction at being a cat, when it rains on the rabbit patch.
Kyle gets off work early when it rains, as he is a landscaper. Christian plays his guitar or writes music. Lamps light up nooks and corners of the old house making it cozy and bright- and supper is served early -when it rains. It is no wonder that I love rain and that I do not feel gloomy as some are inclined to do.
Today, before the the rain started falling, I had an errand that required a walk across campus. There are several young magnolias that line the sidewalk. Magnolias are just pretty evergreens with thick waxy leaves in September-but a mockingbird sang in one of them today, and that made all the difference. It was as if he saw me coming and sat silently waiting for just the right moment to break in to his songs. He sang pure and sweet-so I stopped to listen. He mocked several birds and I forgot I was in a hurry, because of it. I could not see him, though I looked. He stopped rather abruptly, so I took a step away and he began a cheerful encore. I stopped and turned toward the tree. I listened to his early morning melody. It was obvious to me that he was bragging a bit but, I didn’t blame him. He sang because he could. He was doing what he was meant to do and on this Tuesday, I was glad he did.
When I remembered my mission, I thanked him and then hastened my steps towards the office. I reckon that coming across a mockingbird in a magnolia is a good thing. I began to think about how mockingbirds acquire their remarkable ability to imitate the songs of other birds. They must first listen-and listen well. It is a good practice, I thought and I ought to remember the lesson from the mockingbird on a Tuesday morning.
Rain started falling on my way back to the rabbit patch. It is falling now, still and it is way past supper. It is the original “water music” and listening to it is the best thing I know of for a restful sleep.
I will say goodnight to the world from the porch tonight. I will be glad for things like an early supper, little shining lights and a mockingbird singing in a young magnolia on a Tuesday morning-and the chance to sleep while rain is falling.
A light rain is falling on the rabbit patch today. It was much needed and it cooled things off nicely. Sunday dinner is over and I am at the morning table, watching it rain through the morning window. Cash and Christopher Robin are sleeping and all feels right with the world in this moment.
I took a chance and cooked crowder peas . My boys like everything-with the exception of crowder peas. I hardly ever have them because of that, but today , I thought mama and daddy would help me eat them-and they did, but wouldn’t agree to take any home. When you can’t give something away, it tells you something. I did fix cheese biscuits for mama as she especially loves them. I came close to burning them because I was listening to Christian play guitar and got caught up in that. Thank goodness, I smelled them and knew they were ready. I had a raisin cake for dessert. Daddy loves raisins-and he did take some of that home.
The coolness of late September has slowed the grass down and the leaves are not yet a force to be reckoned with, so of course, I write.
For the love of Sunday, I am happy as a lark when a day unfolds like this one. I read a lot this morning, while I was cooking those crowder peas. The morning was so gray and still for a long while-just the right weather to think great thoughts-and so I did.
I did not even hear mama and daddy drive up-and neither did Cash and Christopher Robin. They love Sunday mornings, when the house smells like all sorts of dishes and I am not showing any sign of going anywhere. They did not budge from their favorite place to rest-by the morning table, in front of a box fan. Maybe they knew that nothing much can go wrong when you are napping by a fan.
We all took our places at the kitchen table and Christian listened to our stories about things that happened a long time ago. Mama talked about her mama -and daddy told us the unique way he shelled crowder peas when he was young. I told them I cooked the pork chops the way grandmama did. Mama told us about the first time she got her drivers license, then daddy told us his own story.
A lot happens around a kitchen table at a Sunday dinner. I didn’t want Christian to miss one detail. He was hearing “his own story” told. He was hearing about his people, before him. Well, it was as dear to me as anything. It was a precious time-and it seemed sacred, too. For the love of Sunday, it was just beautiful.
Sometimes, there are idle hours at the rabbit patch-I make certain of it. “Idle” doesn’t always mean time without purpose, sometimes it means frivolous or easy. That thought best suits what I am calling idle hours. I read books and poetry in idle hours or I write. I watch clouds and make pictures out of them, like I did when I was six. I think of my dreams, the night before and I have no shame in this.
Mostly, I am at the morning table, with the morning window by it, during idle hours. Last night, I sat in moon shine and read. I rose early this morning and watched the light change while I drank coffee-where the moonshine had fallen last night. I took the time to feel glad about something that had happened yesterday. I read something nice and said a prayer. Such things are of great comfort to me and the thing is, I have come to depend on having some time at the morning table .
When I came home yesterday, the fields around the rabbit patch were bare. A group of about a dozen farmers were standing by combines and pick-up trucks, in what had been a cornfield, that same morning. Two huge grain trucks were bumping full of bright yellow corn and I guess the men were wondering what they would get for it and deciding the best place to carry it. It was a familiar sight for me. I have great respect for farmers. As long as a farmer can, he still works. Grandsons ride them around in old trucks and ask for advice about the crops, when the farmer can barely stand. When it snows at the rabbit patch, it is the farmers that clear the road-likewise, fallen trees. No matter how many “lofty notions” a person may have about himself, it is a farmer that feeds him.
I saw a small flock of birds flying yesterday. They were swooping and swirling and so I watched them a while. It was quite spectacular. They moved like they were one, instead of twenty. Blackbirds are too common to be considered anything but ordinary -until you see them flying. That can change your mind about them in a few short minutes, though you are liable to stay longer.
I went out tonight, as is my habit. The sky was covered in clouds so thick that I could only see Venus, but I made a wish anyway. I smelled the damp leaves, for the first time this year and I heard a whippoorwill singing. The moon was rising over the bare field behind the old barn . I don’t know if I was there ten minutes or ten years as an idle hour does not pass in the same fashion as the way of clocks that hang on walls. . .but instead is measured by things like standing in moon shine. . . . or blackbirds flying.
Living on a rabbit patch is not for the faint of heart. My own, has barns that complain constantly about something. The house itself, joins in, clamoring for its’ fair share of attention and the grounds around it can make me weary at times. . . but in September, on a day like today, I forget all of that. September makes me remember why I ended up on a rabbit patch-and the long and winding road that led me home.
In January, the farmhouse is cold and you are apt to want an old quilt over you in many of the rooms- but today the windows are wide open and the country air blowing through the house, does not allow me to harbor any resentment about past winters. The ageratum is everywhere in masses. They are as tender as spring violets and like the violets,they bloom where they please. How lovely to come across a patch of them unexpectedly on my wanderings. The bright yellow “swamp flowers ” are just about as friendly. Their lowly name does not hinder their joyful presence in the least. Years ago, I talked Kyle in to stopping by a field and digging a few up, to carry back to the rabbit patch. I am in the habit of this if I take a fancy to something blooming wild-no matter what you call them. Kyle worked like his life depended on it, to do it quickly. He found the practice odd and would have been horror-stricken if we had been seen in a ditch, digging flowers. I always remember this, in September, when the rabbit patch seems to grow sunshine.
I am not sure whether I bought the rabbit patch, or the rabbit patch bought me, now a decade later. I did not know that there was a busted pipe under the house and that the the water heater was useless. I thought if I just painted it, all would be well. There were five bedrooms-one for each of my children, in case they needed to move back. I forgot they were grown and had their own homes, with the exception of the youngest two. I think the wild irises blooming at the edge of the woods made me forget. There are seven barns scattered about and it never crossed my mind that loose tin would be a perpetual thorn in my side-or that doors would fall off, ever so often. I had painted flowers and verses on them. I hung wreaths and painted birds and thought they were beautiful old barns. . .and they are. I can barely keep an account of the wrongs of the rabbit patch, today though. I can forgive and forget in September, especially when a full moon will rise over the fields tonight.
I came here not knowing that I would have a magnificent sunset view from the front porch. I had forgotten that in the dark sky over a country dwelling, a million stars shine at night and you can see every one of them. I didn’t know that the silence of rabbit patch would act like a tonic on me, either.
It seems now, that all my life I was going down a long and winding road leading me straight away to this old rabbit patch, so I would know that I can paint birds and roses – That I can stack wood, mow for hours and love a cold winter night in an old house. In September, on the sweetest day. . . I remember-and my heart is grateful for time well spent.