On Monday, the wicked heat lifted. The sky became a bright blue after dawn. The morning was bright and cool for June, in the south. It was the kind of morning that made you want to forget housekeeping, altogether and abide outside instead.
We all rose early enough, to spend a few minutes on the front porch, before Will left for work. The laughing river was blue as ever and sparkled in the morning light. The sidewalk was busy with people walking dogs and plenty went by on bikes. There was an older couple who walked holding hands. All had a greeting or a kind word to share with us folks on the porch.
Lyla wakes up smiling and hugs us all”good morning”. After breakfast, Lyla and and I went to the the little playground, just a short walk from Jennys’ house. The park is set by the rivers’ edge. Usually, there are geese grazing in the shade. We were the only ones there yesterday. Lyla took full advantage of that. It was not for long, though, as the sun warmed the slide and everything else up quickly. For a while, we watched the cars on the bridge. We watched clouds, too. One looked like an angry troll with horns, lying in wait for the only child on the playground, but right before our eyes, it then became a lamb with a sweet expression. As I sat there watching clouds and geese, I thought, that life had some grand moments. Lyla got hungry, otherwise, we may have stayed all day.
After lunch, Jenny, Lyla and I ran a few errands. It was Jennys, friend, Michelles’ birthday and so we bought the ingredients for a key lime cheesecake. We bought strawberries for a neighbor. When we got home, I washed the berries and Lyla ate quite a few. I put some in a basket, for Miss Thelma and Jenny dressed Lyla up for the visit. What a cute picture Lyla made with a basket of strawberries and a pony tail. Miss Thelma is in her nineties and is ” as sweet as pie”. Lyla was fine til, I asked her to present her gift to Miss Thelma. Lyla, had apparently became quite attached to the basket and said “No!” followed by “Mine!” Oh goodness, how I tried to convince her that sharing was good. I even brought God in to it-however, Lyla was not feeling very Christian, at the moment. Miss Thelma was gracious and kind. When I finally pried the basket from Lylas’ hand, Miss Thelma made good time to dump the berries in a bowl in the kitchen. She returned with a stuffed frog in the basket. Lyla wailed at the sight of a frog in her basket, instead of the strawberries. I could not get away fast enough. To say, it was harrowing, is an understatement. Lyla walked in the door at Jennys’ with a long unintelligible explanation, that I think may have been “Honeybee is hateful.”
Lyla soon recovered-and so did I. Later we had a light supper. Michelle and her family came over for dessert. Michelle and Danny have two boys. I watched them oh, so carefully catch lightening bugs and then quickly release them.
The night before, we had all taken a walk at dusk. We saw a small colony of bats come out of a chimney. Lyla and the boys were quite impressed at the sight-so was I. It had been a long time since I had seen such an event. The adults talked about all of the horrible and unjust myths about bats. I agreed with every word. . .until one flew right at me. Just before contact, he darted off, as if nothing had happened. I was shattered and decided maybe bats will “make a nest in your hair” after all.
The boys splashed in every puddle and walked along the shore of the river. Lyla was content to watch-and so was I. I picked her a mimosa blossom and we smelled the white crepe myrtles. The blossoms of the white variety, smell like clean cotton.
Jenny said Lyla fell asleep, while she was putting her pajamas on her. Jenny and I stayed up and actually watched a movie. We chose “Lion” , which is based on a true story.
Dear Diary, Especially in summer, I am determined not to be rushed. I do not want to miss clouds that turn into lambs. Summer is a time to imagine what seems impossible-and I am glad for that. Every firefly matters to me and so do the diamonds on the river. I am glad for hours that meander without haste . . .and strawberries.
I arrived in Elizabeth City, yesterday morning. Elizabeth City is another rabbit patch and it is where my only grand child, Lyla, lives. When Lyla was born, just over two years ago, I quickly became familiar with the village by the laughing river. I have strolled it countless times-past rows of cottages, that seem planted, like cheerful rows of tulips. There are historical homes with old trees where moss hangs and sways in the breeze. There are also rabbits everywhere and they are less skittish than the country rabbits, where I live. Jenny feeds a young rabbit, now, that lives under her garden shed.
Not long, after my arrival, Lyla and I started on one of our familiar treks, the one by the laughing river. It was hot, though there was a breeze blowing. We met people along the way, and everyone had a greeting followed with a complaint about the heat. We saw several cats sleeping in the shade and they did not even rouse when we passed. Lyla said “shhh”, when she saw them. A lot of doves were flying about and we watched one bathe in a birdbath, surrounded by lilies, in dappled shade. Lyla was quite amused . . and so was I.
We finished our morning walk by noon. Lyla had lunch and then Jenny put her down for a nap. I went to the grocery, just minutes from Jennys’ house. I was so thankful that there wasn’t an old barn on Jennys’ property-or anything that needed painting. It was very liberating, and so I decided we ought to have a special meal. We ended up having fried chicken, creamed turnips and potatoes, green beans and cucumber salad. I added bacon to the salad so Will would try it . .and it worked. The little rabbit under the garden shed ate good that night too.
After Supper, I visited with Wills’ mom. She is fun to cook for as she praises my efforts , dependably. She is always grateful, too. I didn’t leave, til it was nearly dark. Lyla had been bathed and was in her night clothes, when I got back.
I did not rouse til eight o’clock on Saturday. It seemed like all the work had caught up with me, and rendered me lazy. Within an hour, we had breakfast. Will, Lyla and I headed for the garden center, soon after, while Jenny completed an assignment.
Most of the day, was uneventful. There was no rush or hurry on this day in June. In the evening, Will and Jenny went out to eat. Lyla and I strolled and it started sprinkling. We walked in the light rain and neither of us minded. When we walk a long while, I will stop and ask her “are you having a good time?” or sometimes, I just say “Isn’t this nice?” Yesterday, Lyla said “honey” clear as a bell, when I stopped. She has been saying “Bee” a while. Of course, I almost danced in the street, when I heard her (loosely) say “Honeybee”. My dancing and clapping only encouraged her to say it over and over. She laughed-and I laughed. It was a bright and shining moment, I won’t soon forget.
Will and Jenny brought a slice of chocolate cheesecake home, for me. It seemed reasonable to eat it, right then. Lyla ran to find a spoon and so she and I shared it. How fitting and proper it seemed to celebrate the day-with cake.
Dearest Rabbitpatch Diary, I am glad to have walked in a June shower. I am glad for the shade of old trees . . .and I am glad for hours sweetly passed, with bright and shining moments .
It rained all day long at the rabbit patch yesterday. The rain fell gently and steadily, like a long, sweet song. It has been a long time, since such a day has passed. There wasn’t a bit of harm in the soft, gray clouds. They were friendly and generous. A light, cooling breeze blew all day and didn’t even disturb the loose tin on the old barn.
I was busy all day, in spite of the rain. I painted four flowerpots and filled them with herbs. This seemed to quiet the complaining thyme. Next, I painted flowers on two buckets. If a bucket can be considered “cute”, mine is. I repaired the old drawer, and frankly surprised myself with that feat. I am awful with tools. of any sort. Of course, there was a supper to cook, as well. I decided to have an especially nice meal,as a rainy day, does afford the luxury of “light duty chores”.
How nice, that several of my favorite old movies were on, yesterday. I started with “Gaslight’, after that, “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and the grand finale, was “Arsenic and Old Lace”. I drifted in and out of the den, while they played. This bothered, me little, as I have seen them all a dozen times. I did some of the painting, in the den. What a wonderful morning, I thought.
Today, is the “official first day of summer” here. That rings true for me, as we had fresh squash, tomatoes and cucumber salad, for supper last night. Thankfully, Mama shared what she had, with us. Kyle was especially glad, it had rained, as he knows my habit of cooking, on such days. When the kitchen smells, like a garden-it is summer. There are other indications, as well. The stars have increased in number in the night sky- and wild honeysuckle vines cover old fences and act like garlands for the woodland trees. Honeysuckles have a pleasant smell, and most every southern child has drank nectar from their blossoms.
The “Farmers’ Almanac” has predicted a cooler season, than usual-and they are dependable forecasters. This does not hurt my feelings a bit. I have felt every bit as housebound in July, as I have in January. I do well, until it is 100 degrees and high humidity-in that case I wilt. A country woman rises early under such conditions. I was often in the garden by six am, and canning in the afternoon. I have also canned at midnight, so the house wouldn’t get so heated. Oddly, I may miss my summer schedule, this year-but I am gladly willing to try a normal life.
Every chance I get, I go out to see if the bees that have claimed the barn, are still angry-so far they are. It takes a fair amount of bravery to go in the barn these days. They sting through clothing and can sting multiple times. I almost swatted a butterfly, while under one attack. He flew by at precisely, the wrong time. I was so thankful to see him rise above the commotion unscathed. Kyle has mostly finished his work . All that is left for him, is putting in a few new boards. Of course there is also the job of removing the old wood . I will start on that tomorrow. I hope to paint the awning tomorrow, too. On Friday, I am leaving for Elizabeth City.
I love the careless days of summer. The sun is the only clock, at the rabbit patch, when it is summer. Work, rest and play get their proper turns and I can devote my attention, mostly where I please. Wealth is often measured in dollars, but for me, I think owning your life is a far superior alternative. I have always held that notion and preached it to my children. Of course, when the roof leaks and a barn commences to sag, money is necessary-and there is always the electricity bill. In some way, summer balances the accounts . . and at least in summer, I am very wealthy.
Dear Diary, It is summer and in summer, I am glad for the rambling honeysuckle. I am glad for the time when the sky fills up with stars. I am glad for tomatoes and porches with geraniums. When hours are counted by the way light falls and shade increases, then it is summer . . .and I am glad.
How lovely it was to wake to the sound of a steady, gentle rain . I woke up feeling well rested, but the rain acted as a lullaby, so I did not rouse for a short while. Instead, I listened to the “water music”. I was thankful that today, I did not have to rush anywhere. The day was mine and I took great delight in that.
Yesterday, I cleaned the yard up and painted the kitchen cabinets, in addition to the daily housekeeping. I had planned to paint the awning today, but truthfully, I am glad it is raining. Rain gives me permission to watch old movies, even if the barn is not finished and the stripes on the awning, have faded into a dreadful state. No matter, how I remind myself that “Rome was not built in a day” , I find it difficult not to prove that wrong . . if the sun is shining.
I will not be entirely idle today. I managed to get an old dresser drawer unstuck, yesterday, but the thing came apart on me, in the process. I can repair that today. The front porch can be tidied up and I may paint a flower pot as the thyme is complaining lately. It is a good day to call an old friend, too -oh, but a rainy day is good for a lot of things.
When I was child, rainy days were good for a lot of things as well. It was on those days, that my sister and I were allowed to drag out clothes from a chest, in Grandmas’ pink bedroom and dress up in all sorts odd outfits. There were high heels and pocketbooks, as well as dresses. We did not transform to princesses, but instead acted like the adults around us. We had names likes “Lillian” and “Delphie” and we acted quite proper. Usually a doll would get sick, when it rained. We looked at the “World Books” for long whiles. I declare I learned to read from the encyclopedias in the mohagony book case, long before I went to school.
We had paper dolls too and cut up old Sears & Roebuck catalogs, to make more. I liked paper dolls when they were new, but in a short while, they became flimsy , and were apt to lose arms and heads. It always shocked me and I felt like a murderer, because of it.
In the afternoons, when Grandma got a chance to sit down, we often put on shows for her with songs and dances. Later she would tell us stories, that she made up, about such things as a monkey or a circus. Horrible things would happen, in her tales, but somehow they had happy endings.
Rainy days were happy occasions, unless they went on for days. By then folks were grumpy-and all the paper dolls had died tragic deaths. Laundry hung on the back porch and eliminated our performances. My sister and I would argue and the dolls argued too. Thank goodness, for the World Books. We always went back to them.
It is no wonder, that I see a rainy day, as a holiday, of sorts. I will be quite content to paint flowers on pots and buckets-and hopefully repair the dresser drawer. Instead of reading about horses, trees and Helen Keller, I will find a strategy against the bumblebees in the barn, that have stung me, Kyle and Cash -and so hindered our progress. I will pretend that I am a writer, living in a small cottage with a small yard full of flowers and rabbits- and void of old barns with rotten floors and bumblees . . .and on rainy days, Lyla will visit, because I have a story to tell.
Dawn broke with a muted light. The kind of light that does not rouse the world with any sense of urgency. These kind of mornings, come “softly and tenderly” like the old hymn says Jesus calls. Even the birds sing more gently on such mornings. They do not chatter this Fathers’ Day morning, but instead sing in hushed verses-all except the purple martins. The martins sing in cheerful trills, as only they can.
It gives me great joy to write, that there is finally and at long last, no wet paint in the old farmhouse. Of course this is a short lived affair, but the most of the painting is behind me. I have been painting for weeks-at night before school was out, and since then, every day. The farmhouse, is as old as it has ever been, but painting has not hurt it. I have also painted an old wardrobe and the china cabinet, a stark white. I do have a table left, if the spirit moves me, as well.
The yard has been neglected because of all the ruckus in the house -and all of Farm Life can attest to that. I plan to work outside, this week. There is still the barn, too. There is a bit more, for Kyle to do. I will clean up behind him and then paint roses on the stair case. Hopefully by then, I will spend some time with Lyla, by the laughing river.
I have a huge pot of chicken simmering now and another pot of butter beans. I still have a cake to cook, and cornbread to fry, at the last possible moment. It is Sunday- not just any Sunday-but Fathers’ Day, after all . . .and Daddy loves chicken and pastry.
After Sunday Dinner
Mama and Daddy came in the back door, just as the last piece of cornbread had been taken up. The simple meal was relaxed and easy, much like the morning light had been. I had fixed a cake, that I know Daddy especially likes- a cinnamon raisin cake. I added diced apples today as I had two that needed to be used. It was good enough that I talked him into taking some home.
Daddy, does not like a lot of fanfare. He has never craved attention and has always shunned “big productions” made about him. He is the reigning patriarch of four generations now and none of us want to disappoint him-not because he “rules the roost” with fear, but because, he has made himself worthy of our respect. He has never had to convince us of that. Daddy “wears his sermon, in his shoes.”
Daddy carried a lunchbox to work for over thirty years. I simply can not fathom that. His days were long as he often worked “overtime” and it was an hour to get there, and an hour to get back home. I remember that when Daddy left to work night shift, we would wave good-by from the front door. Mama would blink the porch light and daddy would honk the horn, as he drove off. It meant ” I love you.” We would all blow kisses -and we did so every time. We never needed to call a repairman for anything , from bicycles to the stove, when I was growing up- Daddy could fix everything and all of that meant “I love you” as well. We could always depend on Daddy and I think that may have been the loveliest thing of all. I think it is safe to say, that I did “grow up privileged”. I would just as soon sit in the shade of the sycamores, with daddy, today, as anybody, I know of.
I have always lived a simple life-but I came from extraordinary people-and my own father, is one of them.
Dear Diary, I am glad for mornings with soft light and I am glad for the humble kitchen table, in the old farmhouse . . .especially on Sundays, when Mama and Daddy are there. . .because it means “I love you”, too.
Today is far from ordinary, at the rabbit patch. On this day, three decades ago, I became a mother. My oldest son, Brant was born on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, while the mimosa trees were blooming.
I have never forgotten the details of that day. When I held him, a deep sense of love came over me- a kind of love that I had never known. For the first time in my life, I truly understood how my parents loved me. It was a bigger and more beautiful concept, than I could have imagined. I was very over-whelmed with gratitude and wondered how could such an enormous kind of love existed without my knowledge of it. That day changed me, and I am better because of it.
I remember the day, I brought Brant home. I don’t think any mother forgets that. I took him to the mimosa, that I had sat beneath, waiting for him. I wanted him to know right off, that he had come to a world, with such lovely things, as mimosas.
Of course, as he grew, I continued this process. I made sure, he didn’t grow up too civilized-and he didn’t. He spent a good part of childhood in the woods. Brant had a great respect for nature, and he still does. He knew a male pine from a female at five years old. One year it snowed, and Brant came in with a little sparrow in his hand! I still don’t know how that happened. Brant held him a while, by the woodstove, and then took him out and the little bird flew off. Nothing has changed since then. Animals take to Brant, as if he is a charmer of sorts- so do children.
Today, is also the first day of the summer break for me. Kyle and Christian are at work, and the oldest children are all in Wilmington. -so I am having a quiet celebration at the rabbit patch. There is plenty to do. I hope to finish cleaning the barn, but it is awfully hot, out. Clothes are hanging on the line, and I always like that affair. I listened to a purple martin”s “trills” as I hung out the laundry.
I plan to wash some antique glass dishes today. I love to wash glass. It is calming for me. I love the way they sparkle in the sunlight, while drying. It is not a job to hurry through, either, but instead demands slow , careful movement. I have found that I think slow and careful thoughts as I wash-well, you can’t hurry your thoughts, when washing glass, either. I remember who they belonged to, and all the fuss that went on, when an occasion called for glass dishes, long ago when I was just a child. I never helped in the clean-up after such events. I was nervous and was sure I would be the one that cracked the bowl, that belonged to my great-great aunt, or some other saint before her or God forbid, I break the last platter of its’ sort, left in the world.
I have painted a flower pot this morning. I plan to paint pots and buckets this summer. Of course, I must wait for rain, to spend a day painting. The rabbit patch territory can be selfish, like that. Weeds, grass and thorned vines are a relentless lot altogether, and have no mercy on the ones that tend the land. Of course, under such conditions, something happens between myself and the land. We become entwined and speak our own language. I know where and when, shade falls. I know how the soil varies from the edge of the woods to the far side of the “Quiet Garden”. I know where the morning star shines . . and I know where the wild violets bloom.
In the Evening of the First Day
It took longer than I expected to wash the glass and so I had ample time to entertain lofty notions. Cash and the cats napped in front of a window fan. The breeze coming through the windows stirred up the kitchen herbs and I breathed in the smell of basil and thyme, as I washed the pretty relics from the women before me. I decided then and there, that it was a good thing to grow herbs on a sunny windowsill, and wherever I live, I will do so.
I did work in the old barn, after all, in spite of the heat. I started a small fire in the garden where beans usually grow. I watched the fire til it was reduced to embers, so did Cash . .so did Christopher Robin. I thought of the simple moments that had made up my day. The complexities of the world seemed far away from the clothes line-and the old barn. A country woman keeps a diary of simple content, I thought,
I thought of Brant, as I walked in the old house with the clean dishes. His birth changed my life-His life changed the world. He is one of the most kind hearted people I know. He is known to give things to strangers, he buys shoes for children that need them and feeds any hungry animal that he comes across. He knows every older neighbor around him and helps them bring groceries in. I started writing, when Brant was born .
Dear sweet Rabbit Patch Diary, I became a mother on this day, long ago . . . and that has made all the difference. Happy birthday Brant.