It is hard to believe that we are in the twilight of April. April with its’ “showers that bring us May flowers” also brought us ample sunshine , enough to make the wild violets bloom. The “Quiet Garden” is full of roses and the oaks cast shade now- because of April.
Now, in the early part of the evening, rabbits can be seen in the spring clover. The country rabbits are shy and suspicious creatures. It matters little to them, that I graciously walk to the edge of the woods to share all sorts of delicacies from the rabbit patch kitchen, with them. I have a large herb garden, just outside the kitchen window. One little rabbit has decided there is not a bit of harm in me, and so he eats a fair share of apple mint, while I am washing the supper dishes. I call him “Applejack”. I have named another one “Cookie” because his fur is especially light. Not yet, have I seen any young bunnies. It is in June, that little rabbits play while fire flies twinkle, and the scent of the honeysuckle is thick in the country air.
I noticed in April, that the days are much longer than just a few weeks ago. I have not seen the sun rise on the drive to work, this week. Instead, the pastures and fields are bathed in bright morning shine. I come home and start supper , as I always do, but now we eat , without the need of the kitchen light on.
The air is especially sweet now. Clover is blooming everywhere. It is all over the rabbit patch. Unlike a lot of people, I do not mind clover. I try not to mow as often when the world is full of clover. Bees love it-and the world needs more honeybees, for more than just honey. As a child, I learned early on to never go barefoot in clover. I was stung many times and eventually I got used to it and did not run in the house for a wad of tobacco to put on it.
I had read that if a honeybee stung someone, they died right afterwards. Daddy, was a beekeeper and he told me that a honeybee only stung if it was threatened. I am sorry to say, that more than a few bees lost their lives because of me wanting a crown of clover blossoms, when I was very young. I still remember feeling ashamed of that and proceeding with great caution whenever I passed through a patch of clover. Of course, I also spent a fair amount of time looking for four-leaf clovers-and I still will on occasion. There was a large patch of clover that used to grow by one of Pops’ tobacco barns. It did not take long to find a four-leaf one in that little patch. I would carry them home and put them in the dictionary. I still do the same thing, fifty years later.
In addition, to all the blooming and nesting that goes on in April, it is also the “time of the singing of birds”. Mockingbirds do a lot of bragging in April, and rightfully so. They sing every birds’ song, by heart. As long as you listen, they will sing. I can not help but be amused. When Lyla and I stroll the streets of Elizabeth City, we usually encounter a mockingbird. I always stop, out of courtesy and listen a few minutes. When I start to walk away, the mockingbird seems to sing louder and with all of his heart. The mockingbirds at the rabbit patch do the same thing, so I suppose it is their nature.
On April nights, while the mockingbirds sleep, I notice there are more stars to be seen. It is not as easy to find Orions’ Belt, as it was a few short weeks ago. Frogs sing out begging for a rain shower and ever so often, the shrill cry of a killdeer rings out, piercing the countryside.
Dear Diary, I am glad for April. I am glad for its’ irises and violets-and the clover too. In April, I hang the linens out to dry in sunshine and at long last . . .I have put the geraniums on the porch.
It is the last day of the wonderful spring break. A cold wind blew last night and rain fell. The laughing river churned and spilled out at the little bridge where the ducks live. Today we will have Sunday Dinner in Elizabeth City with Will, Jenny and Lyla. Mama and Daddy couldn’t come and that is the only disappointment so far, this week.
After some chores that Will needed help with, Kyle and Christian joined Lyla and I for a stroll through the Riverside” village. We walked a long while in the breezy and overcast day. It seemed like the dogs and cats were acting sensibly, and were inside safe and dry. We did see some rabbits-there are always rabbits, but the birds and squirrels were scarce. Since we weren’t distracted by the animal kingdom, we took note of the trees .
The area is full of old trees . There are several ancient magnolias. Magnolias give the coolest shade on the balmy days of summer . Their massive blossoms are highly prized for their fragrance. It wasn’t so awful long ago, that magnolia blossoms were used at every bridal and baby shower-and were a “given” at summer weddings. I remember gathering them in a blinding rain, for a wedding the next day. The public library, in the small town I grew up in, had several large magnolias. When I was young, my mom would drop my sister and I off, at the library, while she ran errands . We would wait for her, under the magnolias, reading our books, til she got back. It is a favorite childhood memory of mine. Everybody ought to have a chance, to read a book under a magnolia, I think.
The largest crepe myrtle, that I have ever seen, is in Elizabeth City. It grows by a picket fence and shades an adorable cottage. Crepe myrtles are slow growers, so I know this is a very old tree. These trees bear flowers all summer and I intend to find out the color of its’ blooms in July.
An old oak, gave us a mystery, to think about. A section of the large trunk was missing near the base. It was large enough to provide shelter for someone, if need be. . .however the cavity had been stuffed with a large stone in the exact shape needed. So-we thought about that a while and never did come to a conclusion .
We walked so long, that Lyla took a nap. She did wake up in time to smell the mock orange on the way back. Jenny had supper about completed when we walked in the back door. We came in especially hungry as with all of our meandering, we had forgotten to eat lunch. We had a lovely evening meal under the glass chandelier that I find so pretty. Gathering around the table, was a sweet conclusion to a lot of lovely moments.
Dear Rabbit Patch Diary, I am glad for family and magnolias. I am glad for the chance to smell the mock orange and to share Sunday Dinner . . . and I am glad there are always rabbits, too.
April has a reputation as a beautiful month, and so far she has been living up to it! Every day of spring break has been lovely. A few showers in the early morning have left the air clean and fragrant. Otherwise, the sunshine abides in the day, and the stars at night. I think days, come and go in the lovliest way. We have a sunrise to inspire hope, and a sunset to inspire gratitude, for what has transpired in the course of the day.
I am in Elizabeth City for a few days, another rabbit patch . ( Chances are if you live in rural North Carolina, you live on a rabbit patch.) Elizabeth City is full of rabbits. I noticed this when I first began strolling with Lyla, now two years ago. (It was one of the reasons, I named the diary “Rabbit Patch”). There were rabbits in the yards, in the ditches and even in the quaint and quiet streets. These rabbits are much more friendly than their country cousins. They are not as skittish and allow Lyla a close observation. We saw some yesterday in a bed of clover at twilight.
Yesterday was full of all sorts of sweet moments. Lyla and I did not take to wandering about til later in the afternoon. We used a new “stroller” from Aunt B, who I am now convinced gives wonderful presents. It is a tricycle with a handle for pushing. Lyla pedals along and seems to feel very important, as she does so. We quickly encountered some robins taking a bath in a puddle. Their splashing and fluttering in the water was quite amusing to Lyla. A crow flew down from a crepe myrtle to join them. Lyla has learned to be still and quiet when watching birds and critters, but the crow, almost made her laugh aloud as he squawked and carried on so. She covered her mouth with her little hand and looked at me with a merry expression that showed up in her eyes.
On the next block, we walked by a mock orange in full bloom. As is my habit, I smelled the blossoms and found the scent heavenly. It was a most pleasant floral and citrus blend. The blossoms are not so spectacular, but the bush was heavy laden with them and it was a pretty sight. I love the mock orange and now Lyla does too.
Squirrels were scampering out and about and all seemed to have an agenda. We watched several and all of them were every bit as friendly as the rabbits. One fellow was hastily digging and was too intent to mind us watching. He dug as if it was the last pecan in the world to be found.
The sweet smell of freshly cut grass was all around us. Clover blossoms mingled with it and made me want to breathe deeply as we strolled. As usual , we ended up at the river. We sat quietly and listened to the laughing sound, made by the gentle waves. I do not think great thoughts when we sit on the banks of the Pasquotank. I don’t entertain notions, and if there are any problems to solve, I just don’t remember them. Lyla follows suit, and just stares at the water like it is telling her secrets-and maybe it is. I never know how long we have been in this state as the laughing river does not honor a measurement of time. At some point the sound of noisy seagulls or a barking dog breaks the spell and we hid for home.
On the way home, yesterday, a neighbor was working in his yard and invited me to see a wild rose that had surprised him, by planting itself in his yard. The color was a cheerful fuschia and several large roses were in plain sight with many buds-all weighing the branches down, in their abundance. The neighbor wanted me to smell the roses and so I happily obliged. It was maybe the sweetest rose I had ever come across.
There are so many ways to live a life. I think of this often. Cities and corporate ladders suit many. Travel to exotic lands suits others. The ways to spend a life are varied so that every one can be content, I think. For me, watching birds in a puddle and listening to a laughing river was a day well spent. . . and a moment with a wild rose is a lovely and tender moment, and Dear Diary, I was glad I passed that way.
I always say when I am on any sort of break, that for now. . . I am a writer! I announce it on Fridays when I come in the back door of the rabbit patch and Christian laughs every time. Last Friday, when school was dismissed for spring break, I said it again-and Christian laughed again. As it turns out, I should have said . . I am a housekeeper!
I began spring cleaning the old farmhouse on Saturday. I did get several rooms in good order, but I have noticed, that not only did the territory get bigger, so did the house! I have been cleaning out and cleaning up too. I forewarned Mama, as she was coming to Sunday dinner,about my predicament.
I assembled a Easter basket for Kyle and Christian late Saturday night. I had bought some of their favorite treats. I also got some traditional chocolate eggs. I wondered if they would think me silly, as Christian is twenty-four and Kyle is twenty-nine, but I always do something anyway.
Sunday dinner, was especially nice. We had turkey and the trimmings, the famous apple salad, like Aunt Agnes used to make, macaroni and cheese, as daddy is not a fan of turkey-and Mama made a chocolate cake with white icing, my favorite. (Daddy doesn’t like that either.) Don’t you know that Mama brought us an “Easter basket”. She had everybodys’ favorites, even the dark chocolate that she knows I love. Dear Diary, I am a few years shy of sixty, but that condition did not prevent me from excitement over a basket of “Easter Joy”.
I resumed housekeeping early this morning. I can now say that the library has less books and dust, than it did this morning. The bath is clean and I expect it to stay that way for at least seventy-two hours. I am almost packed to go spend a few days with Jenny, too. I have organized the “Christmas Closet”, which is really a large standing wardrobe, to store gifts that may be bought in June -as well as the wrappings and ribbons.
In my goings and comings, carrying things to place in an assortment of collections, sorted according to their destiny, I noticed that the “Quiet Garden” had bloomed overnight! I could not find a single rose for the table on Sunday and had used the fragrant Lilacs instead. Today, there were dozens of roses in various hues. I have never known them to all bloom at once-and so suddenly! A lone blue iris also bloomed. Miss Sylvia, my friend and neighbor, had given me the irises that I call a water color iris. Miss Sylvia passed a few weeks ago, and so, in her memory, I will now refer to the irises as “Sylvias”, I think.
Though, it is time to turn the lamp on, I intend to finish a few more projects. Tomorrow, Jenny will be here at noon. I will retire from housekeeping for a few days and become a writer, a wanderer and best and most importantly . . Lylas’ very own Honeybee.
All of my life, I have had friends. All of my life, it has made the difference-never so more, than now.
When we are young, friends are necessary for play. My first friends were my cousins, though I would have never considered them that in my childhood. Lucky for me, the country road that I grew up on was full of them. I had teenage cousins that actually would play with us younger ones. I wanted to be like them when I grew up. The girls were pretty and lady-like. No one had to tell me that they were almost grown! They preferred more civilized ways to play. No one got dirty and your hair never got tangled because ever so often, somebody would brush it. Play was quiet with the older girl cousins. I felt like something important was going on and would take notes about how they…
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Dear Diary, It is the eve of Easter and all is well at the rabbit patch.
I did not spend the day dying eggs nor hiding them. Lyla is in Wilmington, celebrating her great-grandmothers’ ninety-second birthday. Lylas’ dad, Will, adores his grandmother. He has been talking about the party for weeks. The pictures, I have seen, of the event, are lovely. Everyone looks so happy, especially, Grandma Thompson. I have said this before, when a child is born in to a family where love is abundant, that child is born “with a silver spoon in their mouth.”
Tomorrow, we will have a special Sunday dinner, with a turkey and all of the usual trimmings. . . but today, we started “spring cleaning”. I started early this morning, in the pantry. I burned more branches too, and if no one goes in the back yard, they will find the rabbit patch territory, tidy. I cleaned out the “housekeeping” closet and washed blankets as I did. I find house work enjoyable, if I needn’t rush. Tonight, I will look at what was accomplished and take great satisfaction in that. I am by no means finished, but there is more order in the old house, this evening, than there was this morning.
Tonight will be a sleepless night for the youngest children. How can they sleep knowing a kind rabbit will bring them baskets of chocolates and brightly colored eggs? I still remember the chocolate rabbits from my own childhood. Sometimes we got buckets with shovels. Mama made cakes shaped like rabbits for Easter Sunday.
My sisters and I always got a new dress for Easter. There were also hats, gloves and little white pocketbooks, to match our white patent leather shoes. I loved the shiny little shoes, even if they were hard and were difficult to buckle. We would not wear our black patent leather shoes again-til after Labor Day. I still stick to that rule, though all of the fashion experts have given us permission to throw “caution to the wind” and wear white when you please.
Mama rolled our hair on Saturday night. That was another reason it was hard to sleep. Both of my sisters had hair that curled beautifully. My curls fell out in Sunday School, no matter how much “Adorn” Mama sprayed on them. That was also about the time, that the lace that trimmed every thing we wore , started to itch and the fancy shoes started to pinch. I was also tired of the little gloves. I could not color well with gloves, but at least, I had a new pocketbook to put them in.
There were always several egg hunts to attend. The Sunday school teachers had one and our family had one too. I do not know why, but I was never good at finding eggs. Children would rush to their parents exclaiming they had twenty or thirty eggs. I told Mama I had four, in a whisper. I who find wild violets and four leaf clovers, could not find the brightly colored eggs. Sympathetic mothers encouraged their children to”share” with me. The children filed by with sullen faces and would toss a few eggs in my basket, begrudgingly. It was the same every year, and to this day it remains a mystery, for me, that I could not find the brightly colored eggs in the spring grass. Thank Goodness, I have seen a picture of Lyla , in Wilmington, with a heaping basket of eggs, already. She can find eggs, so she must have dodged that dreadful gene.
Dear Diary, It is Easter, and the day has dawned fair.
The turkey is cooking, in the very old roasting pan as the first golden rays declare the morning. I have pulled out dishes in all sorts of pastels. There is a pink butter dish, shaped like a rabbit and the lovely set of salt and pepper shakers, that Rae gave me. They are shaped like rabbits, too. I have a platter with birds on it, that my sister gave me, for the turkey-so the table should be particularly inviting. I will search the rabbit patch for something to go in a vase. I will probably pick up a few branches along the way, too.
Last year, it rained all day on Easter. I remember gathering flowers in the rain. Today, more than makes up for it. There is a light breeze blowing gently. The dogwood is blossoming and the azaleas at the rabbit patch are doing their part, to remind us of life renewed. . . as do brightly colored eggs and the young rabbits that play on the rabbit patch , while the birds, build their nests.
The diary of any gardener will have many chapters over a lifetime. They will span many topics and be full of accounts of good years and not so good years. In many cases, it will be a love story.
Long ago when I was growing up in rural North Carolina, country folks had a garden. It was considered of great necessity. Not to plant a garden was just lazy. Some of my very earliest memories, are “in the garden”. It was always on a sunny Saturday morning, that I would wake up to the sound of Pop’s tractor. It was always on a Saturday as the rest of the week, he was farming. Soon I would smell dirt and I would go out to sit on the garden gate and watch his progress.
I did not like the planting that came next. The children had to drop the seed with…
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In April, when the world is splendored,
when trees and flowers bloom unhindered-
for the danger of frost, has finally past,
and little violets abide with grass-
I vow , my time I will not squander . . .
And April is the time to wander.
I think to traipse, the whole world over,
with hope to find a patch of clover,
or to look for a wild and fragrant vine,
or to spy a redbird in a pine,
implores the heart, to pause and pray,
for the beauty of an April day.
Hence, I promise, not to waste.
a moment in April with rushing and haste.
Instead, I’ll stroll by field and wood,
and see April declare that God is good.
Evenings in the springtime are especially nice at the rabbit patch. There is a time just after supper and just before the first stars start shining that comes in softly and leaves in the same way.
I am calling it “the Edge of Night” which is the name of an old “soap opera” that I remember my grandmother watching when I was a very small child. She managed to see it on that very busy farm, by ironing or shelling beans at the exact time it came on. Any task that required one being still would arise consistently at that time of day-it wasn’t her fault that it worked out like that. I learned early on that it was not the time to ask questions or pretend my dolls could talk. Of course, soap operas were mostly just on going mysteries and quite harmless in those times. A…
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We had Sunday dinner at the rabbit patch this week end. Christian and I both were up before dawn. I had ample time to entertain lofty notions, while I had coffee. By eight o’clock, I was peeling potatoes. There is stand of “thrift” in full bloom and I admired them through the kitchen window. I love the periwinkle blue flowers. The flowers are tiny, but their color is as pleasing to look at as any, I know of. They are the color of spring, I thought, as I peeled the potatoes.
By eleven o’clock, the cake was cooked and the corn and beans, too. The chicken was ready and was in the oven to stay warm. At twelve, Mama and Daddy were not here and wouldn’t answer the phone. By, twelve twenty, I told Kyle that he would have to go look for them. I was sure some calamity had befallen them. I was fussing about the way the state had rearranged the highway, they had to travel. Surely that was the culprit. When I had convinced the boys, that all was not well, we were all in a state of panic and Kyle headed out the door hurriedly . . . as my parents were pulling in the drive. I did not say “hello” but immediately asked why they didn’t answer the phones, asked why they were late and told them I was worried “sick”. Mama smiled her trademark smile and daddy snickered, unhindered that they had caused such a commotion. Christian told them that my mind does have the tendency to “go to the worst places on occasion” and as I fried the cornbread, I supposed he was right, especially, if someone is missing. Besides, I caused a fair share of commotion for them long ago, when I was the one, “late” getting home.
We enjoyed the dinner and then Mama and Daddy were off to listen to music with their friends. I sent potato salad for Mama and cake for Daddy. I tried to give them chicken, too, so they would have a good supper. When they left, I washed the dishes and gazed once more at the thrift. Thank Goodness, they don’t like to drive after dark, I thought.
While Mama and Daddy were with their friends, listening to a local band, I took a walk around the rabbit patch, gathering branches. . .again. I happened upon some wild hyacinths. They are not as sturdy as their hybrid cousins, but they do not disappoint in fragrance. It is a pleasant thing to come across wild hyacinths.
I always think as I work, whether it is washing dishes or picking up small limbs on the rabbit patch. This day, I thought that I really love Sunday dinners. There is something about sharing a meal, that binds us together all over again. The details of the week spill out in a natural fashion and something always reminds us of a past memory.
A kitchen table is a lot more than just a place to serve food. It is a place to gather and share our hopes. It is also a place to listen. I have probably learned more around a kitchen table, than in any classroom I have ever stepped my foot in. Many a burden can be lifted around the lowliest kitchen table and lofty plans can be made there as well.
When, I walked in the back door of the old farmhouse, my heart was content, and the yard was clean. Later, I wrote- Dearest Diary, I love the rabbit patch yard, especially, when wild hyacinths are blooming . . .and I love the old table in the rabbit patch kitchen. . . especially on a Sunday,
I do love week end mornings at the rabbit patch. Though sometimes, I will sleep a few minutes later, often, I don’t. I like the way morning looks, and I want to watch it. I want to hear it too. No other time of day looks and sounds like morning. On week ends, I do not miss the song of the mockingbird nor startle the sparrows. I see the light change, gently and declare, again, that the sun measures time, more beautifully than any clock.
There has been a lot of wind, as of lately. The pines are whispering, as I write this. The sycamores are donned with fluttering, , tiny leaves, the pecans too-but the oaks are as bare as they were in December. The azaleas have a few blooms as does the dogwoods- I am hoping they wait for Easter to come in to their glory. Mama and daddy have a yard full of azaleas and dogwoods. Their yard is a mass of soft colors now. It makes folks driving by, want to slow down, when they round the curve, where my parents live. Mama and Daddy turned a pasture, into a garden.
My younger sister, Delores, remembers daddy digging young trees from the woods to plant in the yard. The woods, back then, was the “garden store”. Everybody saved seeds and shared them. Women were in the habit of rooting cuttings from flowering bushes. Every daughter had “something from mama in her yard” as well as a great aunts’ or a kind neighbor. In the spring, a visit to someones’ house, meant a walk around the yard to admire whatever was blooming. There was always a story told about every flower. “This one came from Aunt Elsie, who lived “over the river” and made the best cobblers.” was a typical explanation of a flowers’ origins. I dreaded the walks as a child. Some explanations took a long while, but I heard the stories in my childhood of those before me, told by those who remembered- and now, in the spring, I hold those accounts fondly and dearly. I do know, that when I find a smaller rabbit patch, I will take some of my grandmothers tiger lilies, running vinca from my other grandmother and a rose of Sharon from my Aunt Carolyn.
My aunt Carolyn loved hard work. She was fearless of chores of any sort. The rabbit patch offered her many opportunities to show off her skills. When the family gathered here, she would soon go missing. It was highly likely that she was cleaning a stable or raking. She almost set a barn on fire once, burning a stump, just a few feet away. Grandmama stayed in bed the last few months of her life. The family would gather here to visit. I was out in the garden picking something to cook for lunch when Aunt Carolyn came to me and asked what I was going to do about all the apples that needed picking. That year, there was a bumper crop. I told her I just could not preserve them this year, with all that was going on. I came in the kitchen about thirty minutes later. Five women were peeling apples to go in the freezer. Aunt Carolyn had organized and recruited every aunt and cousin there, to join in her mission.
It is still too early to plant-no matter what is forecasted. I do not plant before mid-April, at the earliest. However, it is not too early to dream about scented geraniums and my favorites, “Sweet Williams”. I love irises too, especially the pale blue ones at the rabbit patch. They look like a water color when they bloom, and that time is not so far away. Some of them will have to go with me, if I ever move, too. My first friend at Farm Life, Miss Sylvia gave me the irises . . .along with the The Farm Life Cookbook, which is my favorite collection of recipes. Miss Sylvia’s funeral was just this past Monday. When the irises bloom, I will remember Miss Sylvia, who fed the widows of the community, took them to Dr. appointments-and drove them to get their hair done, for as long as she was able.
In the “Quiet Garden”, there is a pink “lady banks” rose. It usually blooms on Mothers’ Day. The little pink blossoms cover the fence, and spill into the grass. I am rooting a piece of that now. Miss Peggy gave me that rose almost a decade ago. Miss Peggy always had a pretty lawn, when I was growing up. She lives a few hours away now in a facility of some sort. Mama talks to her on the phone, and says she is doing well. Her eighty-eighth birthday was in March.
There is enough chill in the air today, to warrant a pot of chili. I may not concoct another pot til October. It is simmering now and the kitchen smells of it. Cash and Christopher are sleeping together, on their blanket. Moon Shine is outside attacking unsuspecting twigs and leaves. The wind makes them very interesting for a naughty kitten.
Dear Diary, this is why I love weekend mornings. Hours pass and do not feel snatched. I have time to remember and wish. . . and I have time to write the “stories told by flowers.”