Now, as I watch the night giving way to morning, and that familiar sense of peace abides, I am flooded with things like hope, inspiration and gratitude. I find it impossible to harbor resentment or have selfish ambitions, when light comes to life, before me. Light, changes everything. Dawn is a time of communion , worship and repentance for me-and I need all of it, on any given day. This is why, I call this time, the “early service” .
There has been quite a commotion at the rabbit patch, since Thanksgiving. For a good while, there has been “a weak spot” in the floor, in my bedroom. This is never good. On Thanksgiving morning, as I was singing in the kitchen, the weak spot became an outright hole. A hole is worse than a weak spot. I was determined not to let this dampen my spirit on the holiday. In that spirit, I kept repeating,” it is just a hole in a floor , it just a hole in the floor . . .” Christian was quite amused that I consoled myself in this way. I had been horror struck, when I first sighted the thing and on the day of “gratitude”, after all. Somehow, my chanting helped me keep a proper perspective and remain grateful, that a hole in the floor . . is just that.
I had no idea, that Tres had brought his tools along, with intentions of replacing the floor this very weekend. He was quite unfazed when I told him about the calamity . . . after the Thanksgiving dinner. Yesterday, Tres went to work on that floor and while you could see the dirt under the rabbit patch, the realtor called. She had someone interested in a tour. That will surely need to be rescheduled. A missing floor is not the same as a messy kitchen, or a yard covered in oak leaves.
Tres worked well past supper. Christian worked late and then joined Tres in the effort, when he got home. I told them to stop and rest-to leave it for tomorrow, but both boys were convinced that wasn’t a good idea, as varmints or a small army could invade, in the night. So the new wood was installed and hence, we could all sleep soundly.
After a cold start, the day faired off . By noon it was pleasant outside. I thought of all the tasks I wanted to complete and was spurred on by the mild climate- and the prospects of “a tour” in the near future. It was “raining leaves”, as Lyla says. Today, was not the day to clean the yard. Supper may be late, a few nights this week, because of that. The sycamores are almost bare, but an oak is still fully adorned in scarlet . When the last of the autumn colors have faded, then will I decorate for the beloved Christmas time.
I moved the geraniums from the porch. This will be their third winter inside the farmhouse. They are like old friends to me now. Likewise, the fall wreath came off the front door . I straightened the storage unit, which didn’t take too long. I straighten the pantry too. I had put on a pot of dried beans, as Tres loves them. The beans simmered as-Tres kept working on the floor.
Christian got off work by suppertime. Both boys went back to work on the floor, after we ate. They worked several more hours, by the light of a dainty chandelier.
Christian, left at daybreak, to go to work. I was hoping he had the day off. Tres has to make the almost three hour drive back to Wilmington, today-after he finishes the floor. As Tres improves the farmhouse, I am glad for whoever, lives here next. It is like preparing a gift, of sorts. I felt the same way, as I was adding a new rose bush in the spring. I knew my intentions, to move, then. I felt like I was planting a rose for someone else-and I was glad, when I considered that. I thought of these things as the first faint light came to the sky. By the time the light had become shine, I had collected my thoughts and made sense of most of them.
I decided to make a pot of chicken and pastry-enough for Tres to take some home with him. I want to try to make Mamas’ baked cornbread, but I need to get my nerve up first. Twice before, I have tried without one iota of success. There is a trick to baking crispy cornbread. I have never been fond of cornbread that comes out like a cake. I had never even had it, til I started school. The cafeteria served it at least once a week. My second grade teacher was a firm believer, that children should “clean their plates”. She would inspect our trays, to ensure this. I stuffed that awful cornbread in my milk carton and passed inspection. I did the same with “spanish rice” and the green peas, they never bothered to season. In this way, I survived the second grade lunch program . . .as well as “modern math”.
Tres was up not long after Christian left. At breakfast, he told me he was concerned that he would not finish today. He was in a good deal of distress over this and it showed. This really touched me deeply. I assured me him, it was fine, if he wasn’t able to do another thing. Still, he ate quickly and made a mad dash to pick up more supplies.
When Tres came back, we devised a plan so he could leave at a decent hour. Thankfully, Kyle came home and Tres could leave with out needing to rush so. There will be a “trail” through the hall to navigate for a while.
Kyle and I worked outside and gathered another load of things to be carried to the trash, as we cleaned the garage. We made sure all of the barns were orderly, this past summer, but truthfully, more things could go. I inherited a lot of it, when I moved here. We made good progress and so, supper was late.
What a wonderful holiday, it has been for the rabbit patch-in spite of that dreadful hole in the floor. I have eaten well in the best of company for several days. I have sat in the presence of friendly fires. I lingered at the “early services” for as long as I pleased. . .I stood beneath an oak tree that rained rubies around me- and I spent a fair amount of time, singing in the kitchen.
Thanksgiving Day has dawned with low peach colored light. The woodland trees behind the old barn look like black lace, in the absence of their leaves. The house was chilly enough for a small fire. The flames flicker and flash light in a cheerful fashion. A fire improves any room and makes an occasion out of ordinary moments. I am glad for a time that calls for a fire.
Yesterday was a half day, at the school where I work . For seventeen years, a group of young violinists that have advanced in the repertoire, carol and deliver pies to a housing complex just a few miles away from the campus. It is one of my favorite events of the whole year. We delivered more than 50 pies and the children were well mannered. Service is the best way I know of to develop a noble character.
I had to make a mad dash to the grocery afterwards. Of course, it was a full house. Everyone was so friendly and happy. The atmosphere was lively and happy. I felt sorry I had dreaded it so.
Now, I love the eve of every holiday. I love the cooking for as I go along in the kitchen making dishes, Iremember that Connie loves collards and Jenny loves cheesecake. I wonder what Lyla will fancy this year . . and will my niece Hayley bring her boyfriend? I make the biscuit dressing that everybody loves and remember Grandmama telling me how to make it.
I often say, that cooking in anticipation of a family gathering, is one of my favorite pursuits. I love washing the linens and brewing special blends of fine coffee. . .Mostly, I love waiting for the oldest children to come home. Cash, my dog gets caught up in the merriment and is quite alert. He goes from one window to another peering out, waiting, for he knows somehow, as I do that something wonderful awaits.
By the time, the peach like light, had faded. I was cooking a very large pot of collards. Tres and Kyle slept by the warmth of the wood heater and all seemed right, at that moment. This year, Thanksgiving is at Mama and Daddys’ house just after the noon hour.
We all arrived in shifts, and with ours arms full of dishes. The kitchen was noisy and busy with all sorts of activities going on. There was not one complaint about anything on the table. Hayley did not bring her boyfriend. Christian brought his guitar and my nephew Brandon said he would bring his at Christmas. Of course Lyla, being the youngest by far, got a fair share of attention. We all agreed that she is a special child, as we have done with every child born to us, before her. I think families ought to let the children know how precious they are. I do not think a child gains confidence with “false praise” or responding to their every desire with elaborate indulgences. . .nor with excuses for poor behavior. These things do not serve anyone- But a sense of belonging to a family that is just glad you were born, does wonders and can sustain you all of your life. At least, it has for me.
We all left as we came, in shifts. This time our arms were full with the last of the green bean casserole, pecan pie and turkey. Mama and Daddy are well stocked for a few meals. The extra chairs were returned to the garage, trash was taken out and the kitchen was restored to good order. Christmas decorations were retrieved from the attic so that when the “spirit moves in Mama”, she can act on it.
Friday Morning, Very Early
I have not yet made a fire, but I ought to. It is a cold and bright morning. None of us have ever gone shopping as millions do, the day after Thanksgiving. My heart is too full to want for anything. Instead, I will make a fire, and remember all that unfolded yesterday . . .while I was in the company of those that are glad I was born and whose love . . . does wonders.
As usual, I woke early, this morning. It was dark and rain was falling. I had the window up, as it has been so mild. How good it felt to lie there, without a bit of hurry, and just listen to wind and rain sweeping across the territory. Cash, my boxer and my cat, Christopher Robin were snuggled together . What a cozy effect it made and it felt wonderful to be part of it. The wind was steady blowing and I imagined the leaves were coming unfastened in great numbers. I had to smile at the irony, as I had just cleaned the yard yesterday.
While the room was still dimly lit, I got up . I am ready for coffee as soon as I wake and besides that, am just not prone to stay in bed for long. When it was light enough to survey the conditions, I saw leaves being flung wildly, in the wind. Many had met their destiny and were scattered all over the rabbit patch.
The wind blew all day, though the rain stopped before noon. I did some light housekeeping and eventually went on a short shopping spree. It was a spur of the moment idea, but as it turns out, I found a special gift for Lyla. Jenny is a very sensible mother and does not want Lyla over indulged in possessions, therefore I take the utmost care to adhere to this. I am in full agreement with Jenny and so glad she takes this stance. Having said this, I am still so very excited to share Christmas with Lyla this year.
Monday comes, and that changes everything. I always say . . for it really does. It was cold this morning. There was a heavy frost and I regretted not warming the car, almost immediately. The sun came up announcing the morning boldly with brilliant rays. For a short while, the woodlands looked aflame while the frost sparkled. It was a lovely affair. It looks and feels like Thanksgiving, I thought.
Holidays evoke feelings for me, more than anything else. Each holiday seems to have a particular nature . At Thanksgiving, of course we are grateful. We tend to reflect on all we are glad for. Traditions are born by way of things like Thanksgiving- and become rituals with years of practice. My sister, Delores, brought a broccoli casserole to Thanksgiving dinner, decades ago. Daddy was not fond of it, though the rest of us were. She brought it for several years and then without warning skipped a year. Daddy, along with the rest of us, asked as we surveyed the table, where it was. He seemed disappointed. She has not skipped a year since. I am not fond of cranberry sauce, but I do expect it to be on the table. Tres, my second son, loved to break the wishbone with Mama when he was very young. Though Tres, towers over the most of us now, he still breaks the wishbone with Mama, every year, at Thanksgiving.
With all the steady and dramatic changes in the world to endure, I have come to take great comfort in familiar things. This may be one of the reasons, I love fields and woods . . .and laughing rivers. These things are constant and do not yield to whims.
Today, as I drove past the woodlands, I couldn’t help but notice the striking colors of the maples and dogwoods. It was like seeing an autumn rainbow. Then I noticed the pines. They were the only green in the forest and seemed quite insignificant- yet the pine is an evergreen, and will remain as it is now, even in January. There is something beautiful about that, I think. Birds that stay through the winter, can depend on the pine . . .and so can I.
In spite of my affection for things that remain reliable, I am glad for the progress of mankind. The many conveniences of modern times, certainly lend ease to life-and then too, there are the discoveries that save lives or improve our health. Last but not least, the wealth of knowledge, we can accumulate is a most valued asset.
Truly, there is much to be thankful for and certainly, not only on Thanksgiving. I will count the blessings of a table of gathered loved ones-and laden with food. We will eat in a fine shelter, in good health. Yet, I will not forget to be glad for things like pines and fields . . and wishbones . . .and also the time when leaves cover the rabbit patch.
While November, has a fair share of “silver days”, there are golden ones too. Yesterday,as I was driving to work, the sun came up and turned the territory to gold. Barren fields were the color of honey, in the first hours and the woodlands, gilded in gold, were nothing short of spectacular. Now today, I see the rabbit patch, through the window by the “morning table”, lit up with light the color of marigolds, and I declare it a picture-and name it “Morning Glory”.
The sycamore and oak leaves have carpeted the yard , without mercy. I must tend to this today. Thankfully, I can mulch the leaves with the mower, but it is slow tedious work. Kyle started yesterday, but he can not bear riding along in the low gear, the task requires.
I am especially looking forward to another task today. Tonight, Will, Jenny and Lyla are going to have supper with us, at my parents house. Mama is cooking string beans and we will fry chicken. There is also turnips and potatoes to be creamed and macaroni & cheese to be made. At some point Mama and I have to make the decision about whether to have biscuits or cornbread. Mama can bake cornbread, crispy and thin. I must learn how to perform the same miracle with the simple cornmeal.
Circumstances have prevented me from seeing Lyla, for several weeks. I have missed her “like rain”. So much happens in a matter of weeks, when children are so young. Just this week, she used the word “impossible”. Jenny had walked in the nursery and found it littered with blocks and books. She told Lyla, that it had to be cleaned. Lyla surveyed the chaos, and said “it was impossible” ! Mind you Lyla is just two . She ordered “broccoli please” at a restaurant, this week-and Lyla does not like broccoli, but apparently was not going to pass up a moment to use her new skill. Jenny said when they left, Lyla said “bye people!” oh, what will she tell me tonight!
I decided to make a dish with grapes as I had so many-and Lyla loves them. Some people call it “grape salad”, but that sounds awful to me. It really is just a concoction of grapes in a light, creamy sauce made with cream, brown sugar and cream cheese and it is just sweet enough to be considered a light dessert. I looked out the kitchen window, as I cut the grapes. I felt so content to be in the kitchen preparing food for a family gathering . I watched leaves fly by the window in the steady breeze, like autumn confetti.
I dreaded the mowing and put it off until I couldn’t, in good conscience, find another excuse. It was quite mild outside after all. I began mulching the leaves and as I did, I saw tender, green grass beneath the leaves, that reminded me of April. Later on, I came across some wild hyacinths, with maple leaves scattered around them.
I mowed a good while, but didn’t finish. I came in as there was a lot of chicken to fry. I got to Mama and Daddys’ right on time. Mama had her string beans cooking and was making the cornbread. I paid special attention to that. I was almost finished frying the chicken, when Will, Jenny and Lyla, drove up. Lyla and I hugged for a long while.
Mama gave Lyla a fancy little lantern, and since it was so warm out, Lyla and I took a walk around the yard. We both enjoyed that. In the absence of stars and moon, the countryside was dark and quiet. . .but Lyla “let her little light shine”. What a difference just that bit of light made. I thought to teach her the song, over the holidays.
When we came in, Will and Daddy were in the den , watching the “news” and Mama and Jenny were in the living room, talking about Christmas. I couldn’t think of a single thing I wanted, (other than a small cottage ) for it seems I am totally satisfied with things like, cooking for family gatherings, taking evening walks and watching Mama make cornbread.
Dear Diary, I am glad for the glory of bright mornings and the darkness of autumn evenings. I am glad for having a loving family to gather round a table. I am glad for Lyla. . . my own child’s daughter, that reminded me how beautiful it is to “shine your light”.
It was “pitch dark” when I got up this morning. The house was chilly, but not nearly as cold as Saturday morning. I was up early enough to get a lot of reading done and drink coffee as if I were a “lady of leisure”. I went out and the morning air was so fresh, I could have “drank that too.” I wanted to just stand there and breath it in deeply. I really love the morning time, when so many things seem possible. It is my favorite time to write. I do not like too much conversation, right off. Instead, I like to collect my thoughts and imagine for a while. My late husband would wake and want to discuss things like “car insurance”, within minutes. He dropped that habit, early in the game, as I was most uncooperative.
There was good news at the rabbit patch today. I came home to a functioning stove with two working ovens. I got a good deal as I traded enough scrap metal, to off set the cost dramatically. I wanted the scrap metal gone, so as to tidy up and so I was pleased all the way around. I am going to make that gingerbread, not long after supper.
I am especially busy at school these days. The classes are preparing for the holiday concert on December first. Each class will present an international song in the native tongue of the country, studied. One class is playing hand bells, some are playing glockenspiel and then there are the violinists, which are close to two hundred, in number. The children are a pleasant and loving lot. Today in the midst of a very busy time, a little boy said he had a gift for me. He pulled a smooth, bluish rock from his pocket and presented it shyly. How many rocks have I been given, in my life-from my own children to the many students. I have come to love rocks. After I expressed my appreciation, the child said he had another surprise-and he pulled out a sixpence! It was a lovely little coin and he assured me it was ok with his mom, for me to keep it. I told him we would put in my “treasures” chest, just in case, he needed it back. I tucked it among seashells. a paper airplane, colorful bits of string and other rocks. I thought of my friend, Cobbs from the UK and made a wish for her as the six pence nestled among some autumn leaves. What a sweet parcel I saw as I peered into the box of “treasures”-oh, we really ought to strive to “become as children”. . . to give with such freedom, things they find lovely and want to share.
My son, Tres has a dog that gives a gift of a pine cone, or a stick whenever he sees you. At the first sight, of a loved one, he takes off and returns with some trinket. Cash, my own dog, has seen this and follows suit, as well now. Giving, is a beautiful habit, and what an appropriate time for me to be reminded of that.
By the time the gingerbread was ready, I was deep in reading some works by Thoreau. I read another of his quotes, that I have taken to heart. I like Thoreau. He makes me think- and reflect. He also causes me to search my heart for impurities, which I vow to cast out. I am also reading the “Ladies of Covington”, which does not make me think or entertain “lofty notions”. Instead, it is more like a friendly visit with old friends, unfolding in the chapters. Ovens stop working at their house and flowers bloom, too-just like at the rabbit patch.
A heavy frost fell at last. It is about a month late, in comparison to former years. How the tender shoots of winter wheat thrive in such conditions, are beyond me-but they do. The earliest morning light on a frost covered field, creates quite a spectacle and when I saw it this morning, I thought how even the day begins with a gift.
“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” ~Thoreau
It is early Saturday morning at the rabbit patch. Coffee is brewing and I have made a small fire in the little fireplace by the morning table. This is the first cold morning of the season. It takes a lot of gumption to be the first one up in a cold house, especially if the fire went out in the night-and I am convinced that the bed feels the best it ever will, at that particular time. Most people have central heat and have no idea of the plight, I mention. I promised myself again this morning, that one day I would too.
I remembered cold mornings many moons ago, when I was a child. There was no central heat in my grandparents house either. They used a “Warm Morning” space heater . I slept in the “little bedroom” just off the kitchen, Heavy quilts were piled without mercy, to ensure I wouldn’t “catch cold”. I always woke to the smell of coffee and bacon. . .and the rattling of the china dishes, with bright yellow roses, on them. Grandmama allowed me one cup of coffee, which was really milk with a tablespoon of sugar and a splash of coffee. I never fail to remember sitting at the yellow and chrome table, on cold mornings- and to this day, I think coffee tastes better served in a china teacup.
I knew right off this morning, that unless the weather changed drastically, I would not work outside today. The wind made me abandon my idea to burn the garden . I did hope that the wind blew some of the fallen leaves in desirable places, such as the garden or the patch of young woods, at the far corner of the territory. Sunlight falls now, where shade used to, but the battle with the leaves, is still far from over. . . .Just for today, the leaves win.
I decided to make gingerbread. I gathered the ingredients and hummed as I did so. The house would soon smell of that wonderful and familiar fragrance, -and then I would make coffee. Thankfully, before I mixed the concoction, I remembered the broken oven. I have been wanting gingerbread for a while. Then and there, I decided that as soon as I got the new stove, I would make gingerbread. I did make coffee, with a generous amount of cinnamon, at least.
By mid afternoon, I took a walk around the property. It was just the right kind of weather for a brisk walk. The wind was light and the sun was shining and bright enough to light the young dogwood up. The wild southern vines , that I fuss about, were golden and red. It looked like the woods were celebrating. Christopher Robin, loves to sneak up on me, but this day he could not, as the leaves crackled beneath us, with every step.
I came in and cooked a “stove top” supper, for Christian and I . Christopher Robin was naughty and did not come in with Cash and I and so when darkness fell and the cold “set in” I was worried. Cash, my boxer, never wants to disappoint me and would never do such a thing. Christopher Robin, however, does not succumb to pleading nor ranting. He finally came in much later on-and he was hungry.
The sky was blue right off, this morning-and streaked with clouds, in long neat rows. I have a small fire in the den which fascinates Christopher Robin. The fire is just big enough to take the chill out of the air . The sounds of a small fire are about as delightful as the cheerful flames -and are probably good for “whatever ails” you. It is hard to be anxious about things in the presence of a fire.
It seems the more I consider what I truly enjoy most in life, it is often the simple, primitive things that spring to mind. In some way, this makes me quite wealthy, as one does not need “a kings’ ransom” to watch the moon rise or stand beneath a sweet gum, adorned in the jewel hues of autumn. Such collections are reliable and do not break or get lost. They do not lose their value over time, and are apt to make the heart grateful. I have seen the time an old pine made a difference, for me.
I started another “stove top” supper and hoped as I peeled potatoes that the new stove would be here soon. I went out, as the soup simmered. The afternoon was fair and not nearly as cold as yesterday. I saw a bright red spot in one of the rose bushes, in the “Quiet Garden” on a rose bush. I went closer and thought to “rescue” the pretty rose from the approaching cold weather. . . .but suddenly it flew away! It was a cardinal, and as he was as red as any I had ever seen. What a sweet surprise it was. . .and it tickled me too.
The soup was ready, when dusk had set in. The rabbit patch was silent except for an occasional oak leaf falling. For three days, I have not left the property. I have not solved a mystery, but I have dreamed “like a big-shot ” by a friendly fire. I have listened to music, surely inspired by God and seen a ” a ruby rose ” take flight’ . . .in just three days.