The Last First Time Remembered

This Lylas’ paternal grandfather-Wills’ dad. He is a well established author in our neck of the woods-This post is especially timely and will make you remember when.

Bill Thompson Downhome

While looking through a bunch of old stuff my mother has stored at her house, I ran across an old yellow legal pad on which I had written what appeared to be a column for some publication some time ago.  I don’t know if I ever published it but I thought it appropriate to include it now as so many folks are sending there little ones off to their first day of school.  I wrote it at the time of my daughter’s high school graduation.

That phrase kept running through my mind: “I may never pass this way again.” I thought it didn’t apply directly to me because I was thinking of the 1987 high school graduates as they marched in stately rhythm down the aisle as part of their graduation ceremony.

Usually such a sight makes me think of my own graduation back in the dark ages  but in…

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A Tuesday in Late Summer


Schools are closed today due to a tropical storm.  I got up early anyway.  It was raining  at daybreak, as it is now.  Lamps will stay on all day at the rabbit patch.  Still, I did not find the early service gloomy, in the least.  I do not mind a housebound day.  Instead, I felt grateful for shelter.  The storm did not seem threatening at the “high and dry” rabbit patch, but I knew the city streets were flooded enough to stop the school buses.  

I put a pot of navy beans on and found an old black and white movie to watch.  Mrs. Miniver, has always been a favorite of mine.  During an intermission, I wrote a poem bidding farewell to the summer.  Kyle, being a landscaper, is home today-Christian too, so this makes for a cozy affair at the old farmhouse. . .and so I made a big breakfast.  . .and made plans for supper.

 By noon, the wind started blowing.  It was just enough wind to get your attention.  The sycamore held on to its’ leaves for dear life, it seemed.  In a fortnight, the tree will drop them without mercy.  I stationed myself at the morning table and watched the wind gusting over the territory.  There was a heavy mist swirling in the cool moving  air.  Cash and Christopher Robin  were curled up together for a nap. What a picture of contentment, they were.  I thought how precious  home and hearth  really are.   

 On such days, I think of my friend, Rae.  Rae, like me, loves a day like this. Rae and I love a lot of the same things.  She and I share a friendship- along with Janet, that has spanned about three decades.  We watched one anothers’ children ramble in the woods,  collect sticks and rocks, and chase chickens-and then go on to become lawyers, dentists, landscapers and more.  Several of them, are parents themselves, now.  We have consoled one another when loved ones were lost.   . .parents and husbands, alike.  Words can not do justice to the ties that bind us.

Even without an agenda, I did manage to complete a few tasks today.  Thankfully, the house has remained orderly, since the huge summer project of decluttering. I feel like I am practicing the art of downsizing already.  I never knew how satisfying it would be, to have fewer possessions.  It is truly very liberating.  . .and I highly recommend it.  

We ate supper early-but darkness fell shortly after.  The wind slowed down and the rain stopped altogether.  There wasn’t a single star to make a wish on, when I went out.  It didn’t matter one iota to me.  I was rested, dry and had eaten well.  The roof did not leak and all of the trees were standing-so was the old barn.   Had I seen a star . . .I would have wished every one in the whole world, could say the same thing.

Dear Diary,  I am glad to have sweet memories  to remember in leisure hours.  I am glad for a home, and all that dwell in it.  I am glad for wind without malice and gentle rains that fall on field and flower  . . .on an ordinary day, in very late summer.

Song of Summer


Oh dear summer, must you go,

and take with you the fireflies glow?

Must you take the summer flowers,

and all the lazy, leisure hours?

Little rabbits and the songbirds

won’t be seen and won’t be heard,

The fragrant blossoms on the vine,

couldn’t one be left behind?

Must I put my spade away,

for such a far and distant day?


Oh, summers come and summers go.

I have noticed, none are slow-

but summer does not leave us stranded,

destitute or empty handed.

Seeds the summer wind, has strewn,

awaits to make their presence known-

Instead they wait with hope, til when,

The time called summer, comes again.

A Few Bright Stars and a Lily


I made the “early service” this morning.  I saw for myself, the birth of the day.  It was nothing short of grand.  . .and it never fails to stir my heart.  For me, the sunrise is a holy time.  I feel like I have been to “the Church in the Wildwood”, as I sang of in my youth, when I see the first light of day. 

When my grandmother lived here, she would laugh when I walked in, from attending the “morning service.  I would come in the kitchen saying things like “I am going to wash the curtains, and paint a garden bench, then I will make a cake . .”  and on and on I would go, as I was just so full of hope for the day.  I have not changed much, since my grandmother passed.  I still have my lofty notions, in the early morning. . .and today is no exception.

After the Early Service

My friend, of almost thirty years,  Janet  was hosting a gathering this morning.  We listened to a presenter talk about essential oils.  Another dear friend, Rae went too.  I have known Rae as long as I have Janet, and so for me, it was an especially happy occasion.  I met two ladies, that read the Rabbitpatch Diary- their names were Judy and Jenny, a delightful mother and daughter.  They hugged me and about made me cry.  It was “the icing on my cake”. After the presentation, we had conversations about living simply and ways to be kind to the earth, as we traipse about in our lives.  It was all quite interesting – and appealing to me.  The earth is everybodys’ mother, after all. 

I am not sure if it was the energizing peppermint oil or “keeping good company”, but I came home and started mowing .  There was a cool breeze blowing , so much that a few yellow and sometimes red, leaves came unfastened  from the trees in the young woods.  Also in the air, were butterflies.  They seem to love the loosestrife, that is blooming.  I saw the  first blooms of  the ageratum, also known as “floss flower” .  If fairies grew flowers, it would be the periwinkle ageratum.  The stalwart phlox blooms now -and will til frost. . .and the lantanas are full of little multi colored clusters.  They may be my favorite.  One single ginger lily has opened and others are promising to follow suit.  My affection for the fragrant lily is unwavering after a decade, now.    Beauty berry is claiming a fair share of the woodland.  Not one rabbit should go to bed hungry because of that.  They can also eat fallen grapes, as this year the vines are full.  The hours passed sweetly as no matter the direction, I glanced, there was something  beautiful to behold.  .  .some picture to tuck in my heart, for a cold night in January. 

Tomorrow, for the first time in a while, I am having Sunday dinner.   I have a pork roast thawing now and plan to have stringbeans and potato salad.  I will fry cornbread as thin as I can make it, and Mama is bringing an apple pie.  Just the prospect of it, makes my heart well up in gratitude.  Few things in life are more satisfying  for me, than loved ones gathered around a table, sharing a bountiful meal.

 When late evening fell, I went out, as usual, to say good night.  The air was very cool.  There were a good many stars out, but you couldn’t see a million.  The stars  that were out, looked as big as I have ever seen them.  The big dipper was right over the barn and the dog stars were over a pine.  The pines whispered softly in the breeze and I thought from start to finish, this day had been generous.  I lingered longer than usual, listening to the serenade of the wind and trees , and gazing at the masterpiece above me, while the lone ginger lily lent its’ fragrance in the air.  I felt like Love was coming at me and through me, from every direction . . and it was beautiful. 

Dear Diary, I am glad for woodland flowers and berries .  I am glad for friends, old and new.  I am glad when the air is full of butterflies and fragrance. I am glad for  the whispering pine trees and stars that shine boldly.   . .and I am glad to know that a single lily and a few bright stars can change the world.

Something More


 It is the time when garden spiders spin  and fog hides the morning like a well kept secret.   I am slowly , but surely slipping back into a routine.  Going back to work, means I must adhere to a schedule or else I am quickly , but surely sinking.  Gone are the Tuesday mornings spent feeding wild geese and farewell to meandering by the “laughing river”  in the early afternoon.  Picnics and tea parties, likewise.  I sorely miss lingering over coffee with Jenny in the mornings.  . .but all is not lost.  I have found beauty abounds no matter the circumstances.

I get home at a very reasonable hour.  I drive through the countryside, past fields, now gilded in gold- and quiet pastures.  I come home to  a jolly “welcome wagon”.  Cash, my boxer acts like my return is the best part of his day.  Christopher Robin, my very sweet cat,  purrs in contentment.  After they greet me, both run to their food bowl and snack.  I spur into action.  I put on a load of a laundry every day, not long after I walk in the back door.  In this way, I never get behind on the washing.  Next, I start  the supper, planned the day before .  I do a few simple chores, saving the heavy cleaning for the week end.  This time of the year, that includes mowing. In a fortnight, there will be leaves-a lot of leaves, and small fires in the evening.  

This may not be the life, that I dreamed of in my youth,  but it  is a happy one and I am glad for it.  In my youth, I could not have known the satisfaction of  a good evening meal on the table nor the  happiness in having clean sheets on the beds.  I did not think about gardens and flowers.  How was I to know, that what I sought to be clear of,  would call me back so tenderly .  . . that the life my parents had shown me, was so very worthy.  . . that “landing on a rabbit patch”  would render all sorts of riches that were beyond my “wildest dreams”.

I suspect, all of the business, of downsizing- and therefore facing a new season, has certainly been a factor in my pondering.  At first, I felt like I was fourteen again, and life as I knew  it, was changing.  I felt awkward and unsure of how to proceed.  I so love familiar.  . .but now, I dare to dream again, this time with a feeling of assurance.  Life has a way of defining what matters to you, after all.  I tend to want things to “hurry up”.  I am so very curious, by nature.  Yesterday,  I was making an agenda of what tasks lie ahead at the rabbit patch.  I wondered again, when things will change and where will I end up?  It came to me, that today, at this moment, I was right where I ought to be.  Maybe, there is something more to learn or something more I need to receive.  It could be, that there is something more I need to give.  This comforted me greatly  for I know Who holds today  . . and tomorrow.  

Tonight, is especially peaceful.  The air is cool and the night choir is singing in hushed tones.  There is a scarce splattering of stars.  They shine like a kings’ silver-for in truth they are.   Cash and Christopher Robin are dozing by the morning table as I write.  It is a beautiful moment in a beautiful season-I am  certainly in the right place . . and  at the right time.

Dear Diary,   I am glad  for silver stars and quiet pastures.  I am glad for all seasons . . . .  I am glad for my beautiful life.   

A Pleasant Surprise


 My summer has officially  concluded.  I went back to work on Thursday.  The children return next week.  They will come back with all sorts of tales.  Many will have grown remarkably and some will have lost teeth. . .but for now, teachers are  attending meetings and cleaning the classrooms.  

I came home on Friday evening with plans to start painting the living room, this week end.  I had been home a couple of hours, and was already in soft, comfortable clothes, when my son Tres called.   Now, Tres is extremely analytical, by nature.  He is a researcher, always seeking facts.  He is a devoted and dependable son . . and apt to put together lofty plans at a moments notice.  He called to say he was about thirty minutes away from the rabbit patch and wanted to pick me up for an overnight stay in Elizabeth City.  I leapt into motion as if I weren’t the least bit tired and the living room was not dull at all.  I am a practiced packer by now, so I was ready when Tres arrived.  The hour long trip went along quickly and I thoroughly enjoyed having a visit with Tres without distractions.  When we walked in the kitchen door, Lyla ran to me and tarried in my arms a good while in silence.  All was right in the world, I thought.

We woke up on  Saturday, and made our way to the porch, before breakfast.  By nine am, we knew to expect another very hot day.  The humidity was about unbearable.  Such weather is every bit as confining as any day in January, so we stayed in most of the day.  Around three, a quick shower brought some relief.  When the weather cleared, I went across the street to visit with Miss Thelma.  I carried her a glazed coffee mug with a rooster on it, filled with strawberries.  Miss Thelma is a big fan of pretty glass, roosters and strawberries, so she was quite pleased.  I wondered how long it had been since, she had opened a gift.  She made as much fuss over the bag, as she did its’ contents.  She ate strawberries while we talked.  I was glad to find out that she had a ninety year old brother, in Ohio.  They talk on the phone at six pm every day.  Miss Thelma was very excited about a covered dish dinner at her church the next day.  I have already decided to bring her supper, the first chance I get.  We exchanged addresses and I am looking forward to having a “pen pal”.  The art of writing a letter is all but lost in our modern times and that saddens me.  

My cousins and I wrote letters to one another when I was a child.  In those days, children did not “idle on the phone” and if you called anyone living just thirty minutes away, it was “long distance”,-and those calls cost beyond the monthly bill. .  . .so we all wrote letters, up til thirty five years ago.

Tres and I did not leave on Saturday, as planned.  Instead we did not leave til Sunday, not long after noon.  Tres had not seen Lyla in a fortnight, and he was surprized that she was talking in sentences.  Whenever Lyla lands herself in any sort of trouble, and especially if she is being scolded, she says with despair “Help me Honey Bee!” When she is hungry and her mother says “Ask  Honeybee for fruit, Lyla whispers “cake” in my ear on the way to the kitchen.  It is wonderful to be a “Honey Bee”.

Sunday was every bit as hot as Saturday.   I missed walking around the village, but it was just too hot.  I seek to live every day in gratitude for the moments it brings.  . .but  it is difficult not to look forward to the first day that is cool enough to don a light jacket.  When the heat that wilts, outstays its’ welcome,  I look forward to autumn.

We left Elizabeth City after three.  It is always hard for happy gatherings to end.  We always wish we had one more day, no matter how long we stay.   On the drive home, I noticed the fields of corn laid golden now and morning glories were growing along the ditch banks.  Somewhere, a farmer was mowing a pasture and the scent of dog fennel and rabbit tobacco hung heavy in the air.  I remembered sitting on the pasture gate, watching Pop mow the pasture, as a child.  I was always melancholy, knowing I would soon have to go back to school, when the pasture got mowed.  I did well in school and had a great many friends, but life at school, paled in comparison to life on the farm. . .and you were never allowed to daydream in school.

When we pulled in the  drive, I saw that the loosestrife was starting to bloom.  My mama gave me this flower before she destroyed her bed of them.  She thought they took too long to bloom!  They do not bloom til August and she considered that late.  It still tickles me to think of that, but I do every year, when the purple blossoms fill up every nook and cranny of the territory.  

Tres did not stay long, as he had a long drive ahead of him.  I pleaded with him to drive carefully, as I always do.  In the evening, a haze muted the sunset.  The sun looked like a peach and was quite lovely.  The haze thickened, so that only a few stars were visible, when I went out to say good night.   . .and the smell of corn, was everywhere.

Dear Diary,  I am glad for sweet surprises.  I am glad for morning glories and golden fields.  I am glad too, for loosestrife-because it reminds me of mama.






















The “Peace that passes understanding”


I am beginning to “sound like a broken record” . . . but, it is raining at the rabbit patch.  It is funny to me to say that, as that phrase may not be understood by younger readers, now.  I did not even go out last night to bid the day farewell.  It was raining .  Lightening flashed and thunder boomed, so I stayed in and made a cake, though it was an odd hour to do so.  Such things are permissible , in the last days of summer break.

I took a few more boxes to donate yesterday.  It baffles me to think of the amount of things that have left the rabbit patch!  In the future, I must avoid thrift stores, unless of course, I have a real need, of sorts.  I will  also avoid stores that sell pretty china and to the best of my ability, book stores.  It has been a difficult, but very liberating experience, altogether.   Peggy, a friend of mine plans to do the same thing and says she will only keep what “makes her heart sing”.  That is the spirit, I think.

While the old farmhouse is tidy, the territory is quite shabby.  The twin broken washers are still in the yard while the grass and weeds grow without shame in the soggy earth.  The roses have also gotten a “second wind”.  They are blooming along with black-eyed susans, rose of sharon and lantanas.  Ageratum is presenting itself with great fervor,  claiming every spare inch of soil .  I love ageratum with its’ periwinkle blossoms.  They are like the violets in early spring, that surprise me on the way to the clothes line.  Violets and ageratum are likely to be anywhere.  The ginger lilies , that I highly favor, are as full of buds as they have been in years.  The flowers are white and far from spectacular, but the fragrance of a ginger lily is unforgettable.

When the ginger lilies bloom , the neighbors will know, for the scent, while delicate, spreads like a wildfire, in the air.  I still remember the first time I encountered the ginger lily.  I was standing on the porch, on  a late August evening.  I could not rest until I discovered the source of this fragrance .  It seemed an impossible mission as the scent seemed to surround me.  Finally, days later, my neighbor, “Miss Jenny”  told me, it had to be her ginger lilies that I was taking such delight in.  She was an avid gardener and her yard was living proof of it. It took me a while to find the precious -and expensive lily, but I did and at last,  I have a nice stand of them in the little garden just outside of the back door. They are in good company with a  few roses, loosestrife, day lilies and a fancy variety of hydrangea that has turned a few different shades of pink, this year.

The morning glory vines are climbing every thing they can.  If they can not find a suitable post or unsuspecting bush, then the vine will sprawl like a ground cover.  In September, their “true blue” blossoms herald the approaching days  of autumn, in a cheerful fashion.

Fog blankets the countryside til late morning and sudden showers are likely to pop up at any given moment.  It is impossible to predict the right time to mow the rabbit patch, especially since it requires a fair amount of a day to complete. It is  often after noon, before the heavy dew has dried on the grass.  Wet grass clogs the mower and lies in awful clumps, long after the mowing.

 It seems shocking to me, as it does most years, that it is time to start back to school.  Hours and days pass without consistency.  If one is busy or having a grand time, then time is fleeting.  Gloom, worry  and idleness seem to extend hours.  The way of how time passes, seems to depend on circumstances. 

This past summer, for me  the hours were greatly varied.  I had to come to terms with where I am in my journey.  I am almost sixty, my children are all grown up and I live in a big old house , on the remnants of a farm.  I have a grandchild, that I adore.  I have learned a new way to love, because of her. I would rather be spending time with Lyla, and my future grandchildren than mowing all day.  I would rather see my sons more often and cook for my parents than stack wood.  In light of all of this, I have decided to “sell the farm”, long before I am desperate.   

There truly is “a Peace that passeth understanding”.  I know  this first hand, for I have felt this Peace.  Like a loving and loyal  friend , He has stood beside me and  has not allowed me to falter, whether I was packing books and china , cleaning a barn or whiling away time on the banks of the “laughing river”.     

So, seeds were sown this year, though their destiny remains a mystery.  Somewhere,  sometime, they will sprout.  By all means, I will continue The Rabbitpatch Diary,  for beauty and wonder does not limit itself to a single territory. . .nor a single season.