The “early service”, this morning was as peaceful as any I have ever attended. I strolled leisurely around the “rabbit patch” as light was increasing, in the company of my dog, “Cash” and my cat “Christopher Robin”. A “cat bird” squawked at Christopher Robin, as we walked. Barn swallows were feeding their young-and rabbits scurried about. The morning air was cool and so fragrant with the smell of new blossoms. For a while, there was not a sign of another human and I thought if I sat, I would surely go into a trance, under such peaceful conditions.
I will not go into all of the details of yesterday, but I had a fire going by seven a.m.-and I was already dirty. I came in at six thirty pm to take a shower. It was a long but very productive day. I will say, that it will not hurt my feelings one bit, if there is not a single barn on the next rabbit patch.
Every day, the weatherman predicts rain, but not a drop fell on the rabbit patch yesterday. Today, is expected to be much like yesterday, so I will take up where I left off, when “the spirit moves within me”. The next two days, torrential rains are moving in and so those are the days for housekeeping-and cooking. How delightful, that thought is.
It was mid morning, before I went out to face the last barn. Certainly, I would be finished by noon or shortly after, I thought. . . but in no time I was once again filthy and so I thought to tackle the outside fireplace. It is a primitive hearth tucked away in a little private nook. There is a picnic table, that is so heavy . . .it goes with rabbit patch, when it does sell. When it snows, we make a fire. It is also nice in Autumn, to sit by. It was awful today but I left it tidy- but burdened, with scratches and bites from head to toe. There was really only one more dreaded task left and it seemed foolish not to to get it done, as I was so dirty, after all. . . so I shoveled rock. A bee sting completed my day-right as I threw the last shovel full. I came in at six pm. Cash got a bath as he was with me from the barn to the woods. He managed to find places to dig and wallow in, as I worked. Cash is loyal and made sure a rabbit didn’t get me this day! Christopher Robin watched Cash get his bath-and I must say, with an air of arrogance. He had no clue that he was next. That changed his tune.
Now, tomorrow is Memorial Day, so schools are closed. We are having a noon meal, and all of the children will be there. It is no small feat to gather five grown up children and I am looking forward to it immensely. We will celebrate Tres’ birthday, which was Saturday. “Regular readers” are aware that I am apt to brag about Tres. He is a wonderful and noble young man, very polite, intelligent, handsome and a devoted son-and that is the truth about Tres. Lyla adores him, quite naturally.
Memorial Day has always been a bit complicated for me. On one hand, I am full of joy, for my son and his life, and on the other hand, I think of the mothers of fallen soldiers through the ages. War is such a tragedy and the mere thought of it stirs fear in my heart. Oh, that all nations would seek peace- fervently and with great zeal, as if their life depended on it, for really and truly . . . it does.
Once again, I woke to the sound of rain . . .and once again, it was wonderful. I could put off the process of cleaning the biggest barn without a bit of guilt. The rain afforded me permission to tarry long enough to see the royal wedding, after all.
I was in the barn, before the newlyweds were back at the castle. I do not enjoy cleaning a barn out after winter. So many critters will “set up housekeeping” when the barn is mostly unattended. In light of that, I do not like plundering in the dark corners. It is also an especially dirty job. Thankfully, the barn wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. In no time, I had cleared out some old wood and started a fire . . .promptly, a heavy shower came. I came in and did a little housekeeping, but was disappointed that I did not make a good deal of progress on the barn. I really wanted that chore behind me.
The rain fell heavily on and off all day. I abandoned the notion of cleaning the barn. I had at least started. There was a light, cool breeze and if it were not for the blooming foxglove, one might have thought, that it could have been any day in September.
I decided to deep clean Kyles’ bedroom. That was only a bit less daunting than the barn. Kyle goes by the theory “out of sight, out of mind”, If you took a peak in, you may foolishly believe that all was well. Several times a year, I clean and organize his closet and dust under the bed. I know full well that Kyle is all grown up, but it does not seem to make a difference in his tidiness-and with the house up for sale . . . I am just bound and determined that the place be in good order.
I may sound “like a broken record” . . .but again it was raining at dawn. I imagined that the territory around the rabbit patch was soggy, though this hardly ever happens, as the rabbit patch is on”high ground”. Rain is in the forecast for several more days, as well. It is a good thing that I love rain.
Of course, the grass grows daily and mowing will be slow, when it does dry out. I imagine supper will be late a few nights this week, again. Confined to the house, I will concentrate on household chores that I tend to put off. There is always the job of moving furniture, which is always a disappointment . I am always shocked there is any dirt left on the rabbit patch at all. . . and do not think this is an “annual” task, but instead, is performed regularly . . . and to no avail, it seems.
Between the Showers
Once I was headlong into cleaning-and had all the contents of a closet strewn about-and had the bed moved to the middle of the floor . . . the sun came out! I paid little attention, as that has been the trend for a week now. I expected thunder at any minute followed by a drenching downpour. I moved a dresser and kept strewing . The sun kept shining. At last, I was convinced that I might work outside a bit and so I left the mess in the house, to take advantage of the sunshine.
I did not come back in for four hours. I was able to mow after all. Only one area proved too wet, as it turned out. I was terribly dirty, and so this inspired me to go back to cleaning the barn. I decided , to try to accomplish at least a bit. I was pleased to walk out several hours later . . of a clean barn. Somehow, I finished the bedroom, as well. Naturally, supper was scant and late too.
Oh how wonderful it was to bathe with a fancy soap, and to put on soft “house” clothes, at long last. I suppose the lack of glamour at the rabbit patch , may not sound like a rewarding life . It was not the life I dreamed of in my youth . . . it is far more, than I knew to desire- for in youth “all that glitters, must be gold” .
There is something humbling about being in the shade of trees, massive with age, that I did not plant . . . and to stand in the presence of fields tended for a century. I did not know in my youth, the unspeakable value of solitude nor the satisfaction that hard, physical work yielded . . .like cleaning an old barn, built by the hands of a man I never met, but who left his initials and a date inside the door. I did not know to ask for such things , for “when I was a child, I thought like a child.”
It is sheer irony to me, that youth is often spent on collecting things that in later seasons we discard with great fervor. “Things” are lost or broken and become out dated at an alarming rate. “Moth and rust doth corrupt” rings true. If we do not act on it, then our dear homes become “closets” really.
For me, I have been concentrating on what it is that I really need. I have found I need little, in terms of possessions. How odd it is to get older only to find out you need less . . .and to understand that you really know less than you thought you did, decades ago. Youth has swagger and the later years have humility, it seems.
It is said that “time flies when you are having fun.” I think it does. I also think, it flies, when you’re busy. Now, at the rabbit patch, the wild honeysuckle blooms and is evident in the sweet evening air. The “Quiet Garden” is shades of pink. Rabbits are out in the broad daylight and there is the friendly presence of fireflies , twinkling in the whispering pines, at night. The rabbit patch is in its’ glory in the spring.
On Friday, we had the end of the year program at school. . On Saturday, I began tending the territory. I really dreaded getting started. I spent a good deal of time gathering fallen branches and had several little fires burning by late morning. It does not sound like such a travesty to spend a few hours collecting branches-unless you consider fire ants and poison vines. Little trees were coming up in all the wrong places and so I mustered the fortitude, to do battle with them. Eventually, I started mowing and thankfully, that was an uneventful affair.
Each day, after school, I continued my quest to improve the rabbit patch. Small fires burned in the garden steadily. I disturbed a fair share of spiders in the barns and I tackled poison vines Supper was late most every night and laundry was done at odd hours. But good progress was made and at long last, geraniums fill the once barren pots.
Tending this rabbit patch is not for the faint of heart, but it is a love story, none-the-less. There is enough charm here to produce a poet in the least likely of us. . . especially now, when the “Mothers’ day” rose spills over the fence, and into the tender green grass.
The rabbit patch does not allow things like resentment and selfishness, nor pride to abide in the hearts of man, either. Simply put, ” It is good for what ails you.” I can not quarrel in the presence of an old oak, nor complain when the peach trees are laden with young fruit.
The foxgloves are blooming now along side one of the barns . They are a cheerful sight, with their lavender bells. Beyond the foxglove is a little pasture and then a grove of pecan trees. There are two grapevines and two apple trees. There is also a pear tree, and several white peach trees. Some doves are nesting in a grapevine. I love the cooing of content doves, but detest the way they act when startled. They sit “quiet as a church mouse” completely hidden from view. Right about the time you are near to them, and quite unsuspecting, they take off with flapping wings and a high pitched cackling. The big production they make is quite startling and will shatter the peace of a leisure stroll.
It seems, there has been one thing after another for a good while. It started a few weeks ago, with some loved ones having all sorts of problems-then there was the big program at school and of course Mothers’ Day. The spring clean up of the territory took a toll . . and now suddenly we are past mid May. I have always thought that time was sly, and now I say with full confidence . . it is!
Quite soon, I will have lived on the rabbit patch for a dozen years. It has been nothing short of a love affair. This old house and sprawling land has made me different, than I was, before our acquaintance. I have worked harder than I thought I ever could. I have learned what my authentic joys are . . .and somehow my truth was made clearer to me. Still, I remain steadfast on my decision to sell it. I do not fear the journey from it, nor am I anxious about when it will happen. It has taken me years to come to such a conclusion but I do know that my time here was well spent.
Until then, I will water the geraniums and mow the pasture. I will wage war with vines covered in thorns and I will walk by the old grapevine where the doves abide. I may write another verse on an old barn, too. . . I am sure I will buy more paint . . . all for the love of a rabbit patch.
On this Sunday, I woke to the delightful sound of a steady, gently falling rain. I had slept soundly, after a busy Saturday . Waking up to rain, is much more satisfying than waking to an alarm shouting out. I was shocked to hear the mocking bird singing, in the midst of a shower. I am convinced that a mockingbird will sing under any condition, as I have heard their songs at night, too.
With it being Sunday, a pot of beans is simmering and I have peeled apples for a bread pudding. If the rain slacks off, then I plan to quarrel with some hateful vines that are trespassing, in places like the “Quiet Garden”, and around the sycamores, which belongs to the running periwinkle. If it rains all day, then at long last, maybe I will shop for geraniums. Empty flower pots look sad and lonely to me.
Yesterday, I began painting the ceiling in the laundry room. I would have finished, except, I ran out of paint. I do not like to paint ceilings, but what a difference it makes. I also set about to straightening up the storage barn. I got two large items out to donate, and since I had to make the drop off, I tackled the china closet .. . and then a cabinet. How I came up with three more boxes of things is beyond me. I thought for sure, that after the truck loads that left from here, last summer, I was finished. I have been quite particular about what comes in to the house, ever since. Still, I managed to fill three more boxes full of things that might be useful to others that I just do not need. I also did laundry . . .This is why I slept so soundly, that I can not recall a single dream.
Just before noon, the table was set and a meatloaf was browning in the oven. Between showers, I had made a mad dash to the herb garden and collected chives and apple mint. I later, regretted not gathering roses, as well.
Suddenly, the wind picked up, the rain started pouring heavily and it thundered. That is when Mama and Daddy drove up. I was frying cornbread. Christian asked me if we had an umbrella and I looked at him, stunned, he would even think such a thing! Of course , Mama did -so Christian sprinted to them, and helped them in the door.
We all enjoyed the “Sunday Dinner”. Mama and I especially like the bread pudding. It had stopped raining, by the time Mama and Daddy left. That is when the weekend projects caught up with me (and the bread pudding)- and so I took a nap.
I did eventually go out to tackle the vines. I do not take pleasure in such work, but it is so very necessary. Southern vines are ruthless characters. It is a dirty, itchy job and forces you to go in to dark nooks where you are likely to encounter all sorts of calamity. I made good progress, but welcomed the next shower, for it gave me permission to stop the awful chore.
I did find an azalea that was robbed of its’ blooms, is now recovering. That was good news. Christian and I both sighted rabbits today. This will soon be an ordinary event. It is the eve of the season when the territory will host dozens of young bunnies . . .and the fragrance of honeysuckle influences the country air . . so very sweetly.
It rained off and on all of Sunday . The rabbit patch was in good order and the territory was improved somewhat. I was quite happy about the contents of the past days. There was a time to work, a time to rest and a time to gather with loved ones.
I am glad for everyday . . .but I am especially glad for Sundays.
A lot has happened in the last few days-so much that I was still in Elizabeth City, on Wednesday. My mission was to care for Lyla. . . and to be the “chief cook and bottle washer” . I saw a good many robins . . .and buttercups, on every day, as well. I sat on an old rock . .. and attended the “early service” on a regular basis.
I do not think it proper, to share the details of all of the circumstances of the week, for the sake of those, who are still recovering, but first one thing happened, and then another- and it took a toll on Jenny, who is expecting her second little daughter, when summer ends.
Oh, how much it meant, to have an “early service” . They were mild, beautiful affairs, and so very restorative, though the young squirrels scampered about with recklessness-much like humans do in their youth. I did not fault the little squirrels for disturbing the peace . . .but the cardinals did. The male cardinals were quite gallant, in protecting their nests, and a row often ensued, as a result. In the midst of the chaos, dogwood blossoms rained down like April snow, falling on the tender grass.
The grand finale of April was sweet and May took up where April left off, with mild, sunny days. In the mornings, Lyla and I would visit the playground, that is just a short distance from Will and Jennys’ house. Often we took cereal or stale crackers for the ducks and geese. There was an unfriendly goose in the lot, who hissed between gulps of our “peace offerings”- which were not working. Most days, Lyla and I had the playground to ourselves. Thankfully, Lyla would get hungry before noon, and so did not make a fuss about leaving.
After lunch, Lyla and I would strike out again as it seemed sinful not to. The climate was just perfect, and besides, the irises were blooming. We walked to the river passing manicured yards. Each one had neat flowerbeds tucked in selected areas. Some of the porches had wind chimes that tinkled in the light breeze. Picket fences marked the property lines, so daintily and in such a friendly manner. Even the sidewalks were swept clean. I did not have to jump a single ditch, nor tangle with briers, on this walk. Everything was so tame and civilized, unlike the territory around the rabbit patch. When we came upon the river, I realised that the river was a wild place, after all, rolling along on its’ own accord.
-Several times, this week, Lyla and I sat on the flat rock, in the secluded nook, by the bridge. The rock arches out of the water and several folks could take refuge there, if need be. It is a good place to “get still” . Lyla and I are always quiet, when we sit on the rock. I did not teach her to sit in silence,-but we are both affected , and do so. We listen to the “laughing river”, we feel the steadfast rock beneath us and leave the place with a satisfying peace. One day, Lyla said “the river has the hiccups”.
We took the long way home, every day, for the mock orange is blooming. It is well worth the time and energy to go out of your way for the mock orange, in May. It is a “show stopper” in spring. The blooms are one of the sweetest fragrances I know of. On the long route, we encounter two that, I feel it is safe to say, are now “old friends of mine”. We brought Jenny a sprig most days. Lyla is always determined to gather flowers for her mama, when we are out. Lyla has been very disappointed with the clover flowers, that she especially loves, for they lack fortitude and wilt promptly.
By Wednesday night, things had settled some, and so I prepared to leave, the next morning. I drove straight to work and so it was late afternoon when I actually got home. Kyle had mowed the lawn and the roses had joined the irises in proclaiming the season. It was a lovely sight. Cash. my loyal boxer, made a big production over my arrival. My cat, Christopher Robin, did not bother to act sullen, this time, but instead preened, purred and strutted like a “big shot” . . .and he is every bit as important, as he thinks he is, if only at the “rabbitpatch”.
After an especially good supper, I went out to say good night, to the world. The stars were bright and shining brightly-and had the same effect on me as the old rock. I did not need to utter a word . . . yet my heart “spoke volumes”. . .about all sorts of things . . .even old rocks.