I returned to the rabbitpatch on Sunday evening. Brant rode back with me and it was a nice change to have company . . . especially his. We were both somber as both of us had enjoyed our time together. For me, it was a mixed bag of emotions. I had left Jenny with an empty laundry hamper, clean sheets on all the beds and her pantry full. Brant had cleaned the house, down to the floors and hung fall decorations on the porch. The freezer had several dinners in it, that would only require warming up and Lyla had enough “honey cakes for the week . . .but the fact remained that I had left Jenny.
Now the other part of the circumstances was that I had sorely missed Kyle, Christian, my dog, Cash and the cat, Christopher Robin. It seems no matter what, I am always missing somebody.
School has resumed, here. . . and the ginger lilies are blooming . The fragrance of a ginger lily is unforgettable. It is a romantic and intoxicating scent. One evening, more than a decade ago, I was on the front porch at twilight, and the air was thick with a scent that reminded me of gardenias . . and oranges . . and honeysuckle all combined. I could not for the life of me, figure out the origin was of this delightful fragrance. I knew the rabbitpatch, like the “back of my hand” and hadn’t noticed any new blooms. I smelled them the next evening too and I decided I would make it my business to find out what it was. My neighbor then, was Miss Jenny, who was also the lady, I had purchased the property from. She had lived here a good deal of her life and was an avid gardener. Her yard was a showstopper and she was always tending it. The next morning, I asked her and she laughed a little and said, “that would be the ginger lilies.” And she showed me her bed of them. They are not so common in nurseries, but a year or so later, I found them. They are pricey and the flowers themselves are unimpressive to look at, but to breathe in the scent of a ginger lily, will melt the heart of a gardener as much as any rose.
The floss flowers are blooming, too. There are masses of them all over the rabbitpatch. I love the fairy like blossoms but can never decide if they are blue or lavender.
I plan to take some of the floral darlings with me. It would be a good time now to pot a few up, but the mosquitoes are out in record numbers. Just to walk to the car, requires constant swatting . . and the rascals are as big as I have ever seen them. I do not trust mosquitoes and am convinced they are the root of all sorts of illness, no matter what the experts say. . .but what a shame it is to be cooped up in the house when a full moon is rising over the field.
Officially, it is autumn. Those who depend on a calendar will agree, but those who depend on nature, as I do, are only now seeing the faintest changes, and not fully convinced. Not yet, has the maple shown any flame of color, but the dogwoods are at least hinting that the season is changing. Here and there little flashes of crimson branches peek out and the berries are red, mostly. The sycamores are beginning to drop leaves- and will do so for months, without mercy. They are a messy lot most of the year, for they will also drop seed pods, the size of plums and they shed their bark as well. . .but when you sit in the shade of a sycamore on a hot day in July, you will forgive them readily for their many transgressions.
It is still hot here. Not yet, have we needed even a light sweater. The window fan, still earns its’ keep. According to the “Old Farmers’ Almanac”, it will not feel like autumn, for a few more weeks. Time will tell as it always does, but they are never wrong. . .and neither is the maple.
There is a season changing, at least for me. I am packing boxes, after all. The laundry room is piled high, and several corners of the old farmhouse are as well. Things are slowly falling in place and not yet do I not feel anxious, but I remain very curious as to the outcome. . . but I will say this – The winding journey with all its’ twists and turns, does sometimes feel like I have taken the “long way home”.
School is closed due to the storm that flooded a lot of the area. The rabbit patch sits “high and dry”unscathed, thankfully. Mama and Daddy, have a soaked yard, but they too were spared, of major damage. We both live well inland, but the towns nestled by rivers, all around us have really suffered. So has the coast, which is where Tres lives. Tres, still did not have power yesterday. Even so, his home and truck were undamaged, though fallen trees surround him, making it about impossible to leave.
I find it hard to get the plight of those that lost so much, off of my mind. When the water does recede, the aftermath of a flood is tragic. There is the waste to dispose of and then there is the mold, that will surely set in. Recovery is slow and costly. If there is a bright side, it must be the thousands of linemen that come from places like Florida, Virginia and New Jersey, and have been working tirelessly to restore the power. Entire convoys have descended upon the small towns. Tres says these men do not stop to eat, but instead work every hour they can clearing trees from homes and cars. The residents that can, bring them food from their stashed supplies. This moves me deeply and reminds me that there are very kind people in this world and that compassion is alive and well, after all. I am also reminded that heroes cast all types of shadows.
In Elizabeth City, there are only a few flooded streets, as proof, there was a hurricane. The days are overcast and so very humid. Showers fall at any given moment, but there are no complaints at the “original ” rabbitpatch, for the “Rabbit Patch Diary” was partially named for the large rabbit community, I encountered, as Lyla and strolled the village , that first spring of her life. We are spending our days watching little Brynn sleep and smile. Lyla is a sweet sister. Yesterday, she said “I am so excited and I can’t quit feeling that way!” My sentiments, too, Lyla.
One day, we made pumpkin bread and another day, we made oatmeal cookies. We plan to make cinnamon rolls when Brant comes, at the end of the week. Lyla loves baking, but the pimento cheese we made, was just “not her cup of tea”. She has taken to watching all sorts of cake decorating shows . I suspect we will soon attempt that shortly, though I am not a fan of artificial colors and will want to use berries and beet juice instead.
On Wednesday morning, the day dawned fair. For the first time in over a week, there was sunshine casting long slanted rays, on the Riverside village. A flock of wild geese broke the silence of the first hours trumpeting as they flew over the “laughing river”, which is on its’ usual course today. Some young squirrels were making the most of the acorns that came unfastened during the storm. A flock of Robins foraged for all sorts of delicacies, unearthed when the river spilled over. . .and a cool breeze blew chasing the hateful humidity away. It was a beautiful morning and I regretted that mornings didn’t last all day.
I had business to conduct in the late morning. Thankfully all went well. My regular readers know that I am not a fan of any thing official or associated with “documents” -still it is impossible to avoid such tasks. Jenny, Brynn, Lyla and I sat on the porch after lunch as the day continued to be a pleasant one. A steady, cool breeze never ceased to blow merrily throughout the day. The wind tossed the willow tree tendrils in a spectacular production. They reminded me of ribbons loosened in some sort of celebration. How good it felt outside, at last.Brant and Sydney came on Thursday. I was on cloud nine . . .or ten. Lyla was so happy to see them that she declined the chance to make cupcakes. Of course, we have several special items on the menu, to celebrate . Lyla asked me for a “piping bag” when I went to the grocery, so I suppose, the cupcakes will be made in the near future. Sydney loves cheese biscuits , Brant loves rutabagas. . . and everybody loves cinnamon rolls.
A lot of schools have been operating on an altered schedule, and some have not opened at all. Recovery is a slow and tedious work and my heart goes out to the ones, looking for a place to stay, in the process. The ads read, something like, “family with two small children and a dog seeking a temporary residence’. Some people that evacuated, have not yet been back to see what the final results were, for their home. Roads are still closed and so they must wait and hope for the best. It is a tiresome plight for all. Even here, where all is well, groceries have no produce and milk just came in the last few days. I can not imagine the conditions, where entire towns can not be entered. I suspect that even the “hardest of hearts” will be grateful, when all is restored to our former way of living.
Meanwhile, little Brynn is adored and celebrated. Jenny is pampered and Lyla is reassured of her own worth, for we adore her , too . . .and as much as ever. I stay busy with household chores, for I want Jenny to just enjoy her children – and to recover, for this is a sacred time, if there ever was one.
Is there a happier time in your life, than when a baby is born? Oh how good it is to write, that Jenny and little Brynn are home and all is well.
The hurricane has thrown a kink in our original plans. I was to go stay with Jenny, after they came home, however Will and Jenny debated whether to stay put or stay at Miss Claudias’ home, under the circumstances. Will and Jennys’ home is just across the street from the laughing river. Their home is built up, well above ground level, but there is a lot of water in that river. Miss Claudia lives a very few miles away, but it is a much safer distance from the Pasquotank river. What a predicament we are all in! I have not held my little grandchild yet and can hardly bear that. My presence at the rabbit patch will hardly change the outcome of this storm, – and Kyle and Christian are encouraging me to go ahead and leave -so I am very torn. What if one of the ” warriors” (the ancient oaks) falls in this battle -or Mama and Daddy have an emergency? This is a quandary, if there ever was one.
I was cooking cabbage and a pot of beans at five am on Wednesday. We are bound to lose power, and I have not forgotten, the two weeks we went without it, now eight years ago. Kyle is handy with a grill, thankfully and the barns provide shelter, to cook beneath. I can at least make sure, the boys do not starve. . .neither will Cash, my boxer nor Christopher Robin, my cat. I stocked piled dog and cat food, a few days ago.
No one can sit at the kitchen table, for it has become a station for all sorts of supplies. This has always been our routine. The table is laden with batteries, flash lights, candles, and all kinds of prepackaged foods, that I usually never buy. There are also paper plates, paper towels and the popular “wipes”. It pained me to buy the paper products, as I am on a quest to live “green”, but without water, such things will be useful and I did at least buy the “eco friendly” type.
As I went about the business of tending to provisions and planning the duties outside to tend to, the weather man , was giving the latest details of the current projected track of “Hurricane Florence”. It seems the thing is now expected to land much further south than previously thought. I declare he seemed a bit downcast about it. I suppose saying things like “partly cloudy” day after day, does leave room for boredom. I of course felt a lot of relief, but also pity for folks south of us. We will still have a hurricane, but the forecast is a lot less serious now, than it was last night. I think I am going to Elizabeth City, after all.
I arrived in Elizabeth City mid afternoon. I wanted to run in the door to meet little Brynn and hug Jenny, but I wanted to make sure that Lyla knew, I was as glad to see her as ever I had been. At this particular time, I do not think it has crossed Lylas’ mind to feel jealous. That may come, but for now Lyla is in love with her little sister and wants to share her with everyone.
It will come as no surprise to you to know that Brynn is beautiful. She has clear dark skin and a crown of dark silky hair that frames her perfectly, angelic face. She favors Lyla a lot, which thrills all of us. There is just something about the birth of a child in a family that changes everything. Everyone is happy and full of hope. It reunites us all over again, in heart – and reminds us all that we belong deeply to one another. Birth remains a wonder, no matter how much this world changes.
Today is Thursday and the expected day for the hurricane to make landfall. . .well technically it is expected very early Friday morning. We are no longer in the direct path of the storm, as was first predicted. .. .still we prepared for power outages. I made a big pot of chicken soup and bought the ingredients for pimento cheese and beef stew. Will brought Miss Claudia over to stay. Miss Claudia brought all sorts of things – food -books and -crafting supplies, so the house is well stocked and we have things to do “come what may”.
All day the wind blew and the laughing river tumbled in the opposite direction that it usually does. Light rain fell off and on all day. Brynn was quiet as a little mouse. Lyla did well, to have been confined all day. Lyla adores Brynn and “makes no bones about it”. We went to bed wondering what the first hours of the day held in store.
I woke early and was on the porch in the first moments of my day. I surveyed the landscape and noted the river was on the same unusual trek. The water churned restlessly, creating whitecaps and the water was a deep lavender. A lone boat bobbed like a cork, in the busy water, near the opposite shore.
As soon as the light crept into the Riverside Village, I called Kyle and Christian who reported all of the old trees had made it through the storm. The house stood firm and had once again done its’ duty to shelter my family. Mama and Daddy shared the same good news, that all was well with them.
I could not reach Tres, who lives in Wilmington, where the storm made actual landfall, and of course, this worried me to no end.
The little town, just fifteen minutes from the rabbit patch, where I work did not fair so well. Everywhere was flooded and folks were without power. The small town, was even mentioned on the national reports. The “Original Washington” suffered a lot of damage. There has not been such results since 1954, when a hurricane named “Hazel” struck the small town. I still remember hearing my grandparents talk about that storm.
Lyla and I made “honeycakes” for breakfast. Jenny woke up with “pink eye”. A local pharmacist agreed to fill a prescription, so Will and Miss Claudia set off after breakfast to pick it up. Jenny and I checked on loved ones. We finally heard from Tres, who will be without power for a long time, as trees were down in every direction, but he was fine and had food and water.
I made chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. Chicken soup is good for many ailments and I thought it would be especially good for Jenny, since Brynn was born just days ago.
I spent a good deal of time in the kitchen, which pleased me. I made a beef stew that simmered til it was more than “fork tender”. It would be served over rice, with cabbage and cornbread, for supper.
I also made a special dish for Miss Claudia. It is an orange and coconut concoction that stirs memories of her childhood . . and Christmas.
When the kitchen was clean, and the house quiet, I finally looked at the pictures of the devastation. I thought of my cousin Phillip, who was recently in an awful accident, and suffering with so much pain. It was all heartbreaking and I was full of sorrow for everyone. This prompted me to pray til I at last fell asleep.
The news came in at three am . . Jenny was preparing to have her little daughter! -Just before six am, it was all over. Her name is Brynn Mae. . .
The first name, Brynn, is after a dear aunt, that we all still miss. Mae, is taken from the names of Wills’ grandmother, and my own dad. I think how beautiful it is to be bestowed a name that carries such significance, in a family.
So, baby Brynn, came to us before the storm, and we are all so grateful. Jenny and her daughter are both well. Will is beaming . . .and then there is Lyla.
Her reaction has moved me deeply. At just three, she fought through tears of sheer joy at the sight of her sister. I do not know that this has ever happened to her, in her short little life. In spite of Lylas’ naughtiness at times, I have always felt she bore a deep sense of sensitivity. After, one of her “spells” she is full of remorse and quite sorry for her wicked deeds. When I tell her stories, she tears up if any of the characters are in distress. I saw her cry when she was barely two, because “Curious George” had landed himself in a cage. I took note that she was able to feel empathy, so very early.
There is a photograph, I’ve included, that illustrates my belief. Taken within the first minutes of Lyla meeting her sister, this picture captures a shining moment that mere words just can not do justice to describe.
The early service on Sunday, was lovely. A light fog hung over the territory, like a fine linen. There was a hush and a stillness, making the countryside seem holier than usual. The only sound was an occasional leaf floating to the good earth of the rabbit patch. The pine tree was as black as midnight, til at long last, the sun broke gently through the mist, casting golden ribbons of light, upon it. To think, I almost missed it . . .
I did not sleep well, the night before. All of my life, up until the last two years, I have slept the whole night through and could have slept anywhere, under any conditions – and said the same thing. At first, a sleepless night was seldom. Then the episodes became more and more frequent. I read this malady is often due to aging. Well, it probably is.
Usually, I read. The house is silent and I make great progress. It would be a wonderful time to write, except my brain strongly prefers the morning time, for that. With the days so miserably hot, I decided to take a walk around the rabbit patch, last night. The night air was cool. The moon was nowhere in sight and the stars were scant. If I did not know the territory like the back of my hand, it would have been a fine opportunity to trip over a root or fall headlong into a sprawling bush – but the rabbit patch and I are old, familiar friends. I did not think great thoughts as I walked along. I did not question anything. I simply wandered for a while and took note of the rabbit patch . . at the midnight hour . . in the last days of summer. I would not have found such tranquility, had I walked at midday, for I would have noticed grass in the flower beds and untidy nooks, that need tending. . . so the darkness proved quite useful, after all.
Sunday dinner is cooking. Suppers have been quite simple this week, with me back at work and packing. The kitchen finally smells like home today. I hope Mama will bring me all of the details about the hurricane, as our cable is out again. So far, the only thing that I can count on, is that bread, milk and batteries will be scarce this week. I have never understood, why milk is in such high demand during storms, for if we lose power, it will only be good for making biscuits, when it is all over. Of course, my main concern, is that Jenny is expecting the baby any day now.
Sunday dinner was a happy affair. Mama brought dessert and Daddy was having a good day. Somehow a window fan kept the kitchen cool. As we sat around the table passing the barbecued chicken, Mama mentioned that she had sent my doctor a “thank you” note for seeing me through my recent bout of sickness. Aren’t mamas so dear? It touched me deeply, for I felt so loved. She knew no more about the hurricane, than I did, but the storm and all the details that come with it, were “second fiddle” to thanking the good doctor, that cared for her child.
I had several “business” calls to make afterwards. Such things tax me heavily, but all turned out well. I tell myself, there is less to do than there was. I am going through boxes like water. I am so grateful, that I did the major decluttering a year ago, now. I can not imagine increasing the existing task, one iota. Thankfully, the things that render me sentimental, are neatly stored in boxes labeled “IMPORTANT, FRAGILE AND DEAR”. Other boxes say simply, “tablecloths” or “blankets” -many are marked “books”.
Of course, I have not even tackled the grounds yet. I must take a rose, that has traveled with me from several homes. It was a mothers’ day gift many moons ago. I must take some of my grandmothers’ tiger lilies, and the other grandmothers’ running periwinkle. There are the floss flowers and at least one of the ginger lilies, should come along, as they are not so easy to find. I will leave the magic lily, so the new owner will have a surprise in July, when the pale pink flowers spring up over night, without fore warning.
Kyle and I started the planning for the hurricane, in the early evening. We checked flashlights and lamp oil. We planned menus that could be accomplished on the grill. We will store water and hope for the best. I will say extra prayers for the old warriors of the rabbit patch, the oaks, sycamores and pines.
We are not strangers to the “dire straits” of a hurricane. Once we went without power for two weeks. At such times, the Farm Life community unites. The fire dept. checks on every household early in the game. The farmers are out with tractors and chainsaws, clearing downed trees. You needn’t summon your neighbor for help, for they are already there. This is always the case. I remember working in the yard, during the last storm. It was so hot and without power, a cool drink had been impossible for days. My dear neighbor Susan (who also mows the grass) had managed to get ice, She surprised me with a cold coke and oh, the difference it made in my day.
Clothes were put in soak in the morning, washed and rinsed and wrung out by hand. It took them all day to dry. A water hose sprawled across the yard and hung in a secluded corner in the Quiet Garden. This is where we bathed.
Christian and I played music with guitar and violin in the evenings on the porch and the neighbors listened. It was an awful time in some ways, but still we found the “silver linings” behind the clouds. With all that being said, I so hope that hurricane has a change of heart, and stays out to sea. . . and I especially hope Jenny does not have the baby in the midst of the storm.
How good it is to say, that I have attended the “early service” for the past two days. The relaxed work schedule, I am observing, has afforded me this luxury, and I have taken full advantage. Some people wake and charge into the day, quite naturally. I on the other hand, do not. First, I do not rise with the full use of my facilities. It is best for me, ad all concerned in my path, if I am allowed to slip quietly in to the day.
Before, my husband died, he would bounce out of bed and be halfway dressed before announcing, “I have been thinking about our car insurance . . .” and I would look at him, incredulously , and ask “how?” , for I was still processing the concept of things like, “Today is Tuesday.” The “early service” is a blessing in more than one way, for me.
In September, the early service is a gentle affair. Leaves are fluttering, just as the moths do, in the evening. Both, moths and leaves, make a big production, about their flight. They both twirl and dash madly, but silently, before their landing. I have been mistaken, knowing which is which . . .in September.
Even the sun behaves differently, these days. The sky slowly turns a buttery shade, while the cicadas chant their choruses. A lone bird may sing out. Today it was a cardinal. I go over my prayer list and just in case, I include the whole world. My dear friend, Julie asked me the other day, if I was still praying about my own personal predicament, with the move from the rabbit patch. I said “that is not my business” anymore. Julie laughed, for she understood that I had given the thing to the Father, after all. This does not mean, that I am not very curious, for oh how, I wish I knew the details. It does not mean, that I do not burn with wonder, but it does mean, anticipation and trust can go “hand in Hand”, I have learned.
Every time Jenny calls, I feel a pang of senselessness. The baby could be hours or weeks away, after all. I am packed and ready. Lyla has a pocketbook with a pacifier, a tissue and a little toy, packed too. Lyla, has also started “preschool”. On the second day, Lyla did not want to join her teacher in “circle”. She told the teacher, she wanted to continue playing. After a bit, the teacher told Lyla, she would need to sit with her in the hallway, while the other children enjoyed the “circle time”. Lyla took her hand and obediently walked out. Lyla, surveyed her surroundings and told the teacher, that she ” liked the hall, for she could see everything!” . . .so that didn’t work. Oh, it may “take a village to raise a child.” . . .but it also takes the “wisdom of Solomon” .
I have decorated the farmhouse porch with a bit of autumn foliage, a lantern and a wreath. It is very hot and humid, still-quite undesirable conditions for me. Some people love hot weather, but it makes me wilt. I am in no way denying the wonder of summer, for the night sky is dazzling in months like July. There is also the wild honeysuckle, magnolias, roses and cape Jasmine perfuming the air with the most intoxicating scents. No other season smells like summer. There are too many extraordinary details about summer, to dismiss it nonchalantly, without gratitude for the dewy mornings and the gardens’ bounty, but when autumn is just in the wings, I fall headlong into the prelude with great expectations.
Just now the floss flower blooms as the oak fades. Now and then loosened leaves fall in empty nests, abandoned in thickets. . . and some fall to cover the little garden path. Though the grass still grows, it lacks the former vigor of June. The roses in the Quiet Garden are few and far between. Nature seems in a lull just now. It is as if the rhythm of life, has slowed enough for every living thing to “catch its’ breath”.
I pack at least one box everyday. In this way, I hope to avoid the scrambling and rushing, as often comes with moving. I think I may be setting some sort of record, as the longest move in history. I started seriously contemplating this idea two years ago. It took me a year to decide and now finally here I am waiting on paperwork. What an ordeal! I carefully label each box and to keep my spirits up, I imagine unpacking them in some cozy cottage. Something is simmering in the kitchen and often it is raining, in my day dream.
Other times, I imagine an expensive moving truck, honking the horn, while we are all cross and eventually, someone drops the box of the beloved Christmas china.
Imagination can be a wonderful tool in life. . .or not. I was blessed early in life with the opportunity to develop skill in this . My cousins and I were expected to entertain ourselves a good deal of time. We were not poor, but toys were not lavished upon us. Besides, we had trees, fields and woodlands that served as a playground. We made up all sorts of dramas and games. We were always exploring a newly discovered path made by deer, an abandoned shed or at least once an old moonshine still, we were sure belonged to a great uncle. We were quite resourceful, for we had to be. We solved our disputes and made up rules of what was fair. I do not know, even now if the adults knew they were imparting such a valuable gift to us, but it has served me well.
In the midst of a problem, I can imagine a positive outcome. If something doesn’t work the first time, then now I know better, how to proceed. How many forts fell in shambles before the one that made it through winter, I remember? When something takes longer than I expected, what might I stumble upon, while waiting, I wonder? If I am going to invent some event, you can rest assured, I am expecting something wonderful to happen. Doom and gloom serve no purpose, as best I can tell, except to make us “worried sick”, truthfully. Even when I feel melancholy, I know it will pass. Regret and loss, are the burdens, hardest to shake for me, I have found.
Tomorrow is Sunday, and since I am at the rabbit patch, I hope to cook a Sunday dinner. The kitchen remains mostly intact. (I did bravely packed the bundt pan and some measuring cups.) At any moment, Jenny could call with the arrival of her new daughter, possible. There is also a hurricane that may make landfall here, on Wednesday. (I did not pack the lamp oil nor the flashlights.) Until then, I will bide my time, waiting for so much to happen, while I watch the grand finale of summer . . .and imagine all sorts of beautiful things to come.