Home is Where I Am


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It is Sunday morning. Birds are singing their morning songs.  Farm Life is quiet and peaceful as it always is on a Sunday.  Tractors and mowers are parked under shelters -Farm Life rests on Sundays.  The rabbit patch kitchen smells  only of coffee as I am not cooking the usual Sunday dinner today.  

I call the 100 year old farm house, I live in, “Sweet home”.  It is  a big enough house to ramble in, and has a sprawling yard around it.  There are several old pecan trees, fig, peach and apple trees-and an ancient grape vine. There is also a pear tree-and a nice garden spot.  Flowers bloom in every place that I can grow them.  The old barns are surrounded by blooms . . and there is the “Quiet Garden”, which is really a rose garden.  Sweet Home is sweet . . .mostly.

I bought the remnants of a farm, now almost twelve years ago.  A lot has happened since.  Tres moved to Wilmington to join his brother and sister.  Grandmama  was living with us til she passed in her early nineties,  Jenny got married and my youngest son, Christian became a young man. . . and Lyla was born.  In the midst of all that, I painted, put up fence, repaired the fence and kept planting flowers and vegetables.  There is a well established herb garden, I tend.  I have cleaned up after several hurricanes and mowed the four acre yard countless hours, for the last twelve years.  I can’t even bear to think about the leaves. Something else happened in the passing years, too-I got older.

Maybe it happened as I was painting pink roses and birds on the barns-or my favorite verses.  Maybe it happened as I canned many gallons of tomatoes or when I snapped the hundreds of bushels of green beans-or cleaned out the many barns or blazed the trail in the young woods.  The truth is, I mostly enjoyed it.  The truth is, I needed this old house, more than it needed me.

Three years ago, my son Tres told me to “sell the house”.  I stammered and felt shaken by it and declared, I could not talk about it right then.  Now, I can.  At first, it seemed so tragic, but Christian told me, “Mom, “Home is where you are.”  All of the kids have said that all my time and money went into this place-and they were right, I realised.  Then Lyla was born, and suddenly, it annoyed me to have a ton of leaves in the yard to spend a week end with.  I became bitter about the whining fences and loose tin on the barns.  My sons are grown and starting careers and I would rather spend time with them than replace doors on barns or being scratched up cutting the thorned vines that grow everywhere, I turn.  I would rather be cooking Sunday dinner, than once again, working on the kitchen floor, as I am this day.

I can finally declare, I m looking for a smaller rabbit patch.  It is not based on a feeling of defeat, but instead confidence.  Christian was right, Home is where, we are.  I do not want to work to maintain empty rooms nor to calculate my life based on what has to be done next to maintain an empty pasture.  My needs have changed-and my desires, too.  

Somewhere, there is a cottage that awaits me.  There will be enough yard to plant flowers and maybe a little bit of picket fence, for the sweet morning glory, to grow on.  There may even be a sidewalk and I hope for an old tree.  I hope to push mow the yard- and geraniums should have a place, too. I am not too old to dream, I have decided.

I profess, whole heartedly, to believe in God.  It should not take great courage for me to know,that I can trust that the right things in the right time will come to pass.  I have learned well, that my sense of timing has been off on more than one occasion, and so I await with “great expectation” for what is next.  I may be at Sweet Home, at Christmas, or I may be hanging the wreath on a  door, unknown to me now.  This is about the only plan, I have.  Goodness, I have spent a fair amount of time, concocting plans, that changed on a dime,  and not many of them turned out as I expected.  I have seen plans work for other folks, and most everybody has them-but my journey has taught me, that I can not dream big enough. It seems the most beautiful events in my life, have unfolded without my foresight.  I also, have made mistakes, that I never planned on.

I am not claiming to have the faith to move mountains.  Unfortunately,  I falter and stumble head first into fearful notions, sometimes.  When I recover, I vow that will be the last time-but it never is.  I am grateful for mercy.

Dear Diary,  I do not have any regrets about living on this rabbit patch, but instead am so very grateful for every minute.   Today, while the stove is cold, I will fix that kitchen floor and I  will think. . .   This old farm has been one of the most beautiful “stepping stones”,  I have ever known and also-“Home is where I am.”

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While the Mockingbird Sleeps


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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.

 

 

 

There Are Always Rabbits


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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.

 

“To a Wild Rose”


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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.

A Writer, A Housekeeper and a Honeybee


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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.

Birds of a Feather


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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 Easter!


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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.