At last, a”hard frost” fell on the territory. It came late this year, as compared to most. Before, this diary, there have been many I have kept over the past thirty five years. For some reason, I always note the characteristics of each particular season. I am sure growing up on a farm and being a gardener, has kept me keenly aware of things like “the first hard frost”. I know that often, we have one by mid to late October. A hard frost means a lot to a country dweller, for it ends the mowing -and the growing. Greens are best after a frost, for it tenders them. You are not so likely, to step in a mound of fire ants, either. Now is the time to “take to the woods”, for ticks, mosquitoes, redbugs and poison vines do not hinder a stroll as they did before-even snakes are not the threat they once were.
I was in Elizabeth City, the night of the frost. It was a three day weekend, after all.
Will and Jenny, took full advantage and went out to eat, one night. Little Brynn is a happy, beautiful baby . . .and knows full well, who her parents are. No one else will do, unless of course, she gets stranded. Brynn fussed a little while, that night, but I remained steadfast and mustered my courage, til it paid off . Brynn was sleeping peacefully, when her beloved parents returned. Lyla and I always get along beautifully, but just in case, I made her favorite pumpkin bread, for a special”late night snack”.
Saturday faired off to a delightful day. I sat out on the deck, and listened to the voices of neighborhood children enjoying the day. I looked up once, to see two little girls strolling along, hand in hand. It was a beautiful sight. They were chatting away and were so merry. I remembered holding my sisters’ hands as we were growing up. Sometimes, it was for safety, if we were on a sidewalk or in the church parking lot, but often we did so just for the sake of holding hands as we went along. It was a habit then, as it is today amongst the youngest children, who are naturally loving . Somehow, seeing the little friends hand in hand sparked a hope in me, for though the time of innocence is more fleeting than ever, here was evidence, that all is not yet lost.
Lyla loves the kitchen. She has taken to watching cooking shows, as well. Her favorites are making decorated cupcakes. She will watch one episode after another and even asked me to get her a “piping bag”! One episode featured a mother and daughter making zucchini bites (which is a modern name for squash fritters). Jenny and I thought these would pair well with the tomato basil soup I was making for supper. Lyla was so excited when she saw me grating the squash, and wanted to try herself. I placed my hand on hers, and warned her often to slow down, but she cut herself anyway. It was an awful shock, and I know it hurt. She wailed a good while and finally cried herself to sleep. I should have known better . I should have firmly denied her this request. I chided myself while she slept sorrowfully. . .The next morning we made cinnamon rolls and thankfully, there were no regrets, this time.
Miss Claudia, Wills’ mom and my friend, came over for a late brunch and so we served the cinnamon buns, sausage, bacon, eggs and fried potatoes. When the kitchen was cleaned up, and the laundry put away, I was just about to sit down for leisure conversation, when Christian called. He was almost an hour away with a flat tire and no spare (he is my son and as bad as I am about such things). Well, I was already packed and immediately dashed out. It was just starting to rain.
I could not bear the thought of my son being beside a highway , in a pouring rain. . .alone. All sorts of thoughts rushed in my head, and being a mother, none were good. I did not have clear directions where he was and his cell had gone dead. Right when I was about to give up, I saw his truck. Relief washed over me as thoroughly as the rain washed over the landscape.
I will be the first to say that I have never done well under such circumstances. There are countless stories in our family about my outlandish behavior when I thought a child of mine was in danger. .and . . . they are all true. What little bit of good sense I do have, abandons me altogether, in such moments. It has not gotten any better, just because they all grew up, either.
Uneventful days seem to be a thing of the past, as of lately. My dad has had a fair share of battles, for the past month. Mama has too, for she faces the battles with him, shoulder to shoulder. No one goes in to a battle, in this family, alone.
My “Uncle Randy”, Daddys’ brother is doing poorly, too. I have always especially loved my uncle. Then there is Wills’ mom and my friend, Miss Claudia, who also is in the midst of a struggle. I do not go about my business, unscathed by my loved ones’ strife, for I am laden with concern in every step.
There is the on-going saga of selling the house, as well, which truly, I have had little time to dwell on.
At work, the “Holiday Concert” is just a few weeks away. Over three hundred children will perform. The children are so excited and that is a “saving grace” for me. The youngest violinists are working on “Jingle Bells with joyful anticipation of the concert. I have seen this, hundreds of times, but it is never “old hat” to me.
For the first time in many years, I wonder where the Christmas tree will go. Will it go in the old familiar place, or by a window in a small cottage? I do like to put the Christmas tree in front of a window, for it seems to say “Merry Christmas to all!” , I think.
At the end of the day, Daddy had received a good report from the doctor, the dog had been to the veterinarian and was sleeping soundly -and Christians’ truck was in the yard.
Many other things remain a mystery and I wish I could report that I was reacting like a “saint”, but alas, I stumble awkwardly along, in a daze at times. I do not feel abandoned nor not cared for, but sometimes I feel in the midst of a dense fog and how I yearn for a brightly lit path! Never-the less, there is evidence all around me that seems to cheer me on . . .for a sparrow perches in a golden oak . . . a scarlet vine becomes a garland for a lone pine . . . and the first silver star appears in the evening, like an old friend come to call, at just the right hour.
It did not matter one iota, that the time changed. Somehow, I managed to awaken at my usual hour. The wind was up early too. As the crescent moon faded, I saw there were more leaves in the yard, and felt sure, many of them would have turned all sorts of colors . . like ruby or amber. No doubt some would have been delightful shades of orange, but it was not their destiny . Along with the leaves, there were small branches littering the territory. I sat at the “morning table” under a warm blanket, with my coffee while Cash, my boxer and Christopher Robin, my cat, slept unhindered by a clock -or housekeeping.
Those who read the “rabbitpatch diary” regularly, know I am not a fan of changing the clocks. I complain about it every spring. Clocks do not create more day light nor night time. It is as simple as that. Nature has its’ own rhythm, and it has always worked out fine. I do not mind, that nights get longer this time of year, for the stars come out when they please, anyway – and no one is going to convince the moon nor the sun to change their ways, no matter what we call the hour. If it were up to me, everyone would be home by dark, “safe and sound”, anyway, for I am that old now.
I was out on the porch by the time the sun had climbed over the pines. I sent more spiders packing and swept wayward leaves back to the earth. I swept the sidewalk and the steps til finally, the broom was in shambles. I have had that broom for years and I chided myself for being reluctant to toss it. It had originally been the house broom, then it became the porch and barn, broom. I have certainly got my moneys’ worth out of it -and it is just an old broom. How odd to be sentimental over a broom, I thought. Then I remembered that my grandmother was the same way over her broom -and my daddy has a garden hoe, that he used as a child! So, I decided we are just an “odd lot”, altogether.
When the porch was in order, I began picking up branches from the yard. One still, dry evening, we will burn the garden. Kyle loves this ritual and so I hope to do it when he can come. Kyle has taken up residence with a friend, that lives closer to his work. He calls everyday and never fails to ask, what we are having for supper.
I had several piles of branches, collected, and so I decided to go inside to clean the laundry room. It stays orderly, but it was dusty. There was a nightmare behind the dryer. There were cobwebs and thick dust and lint. I cleaned the windowsills and put a fresh coat of paint on the cabinet.
We did not have a Sunday dinner. Mama and Daddy couldn’t come, so Christian and I had more soup from the day before. I plan to make up for it on Tuesday. Mama has an appointment and a meeting, so I will cook at her house, so she can eat in between the two -and I will spend the night there. Brant and Christian are coming, after they finish some work at the rabbitpatch. Tuesday will be an occasion.
On Monday, I awakened to the sound of a steady , morning rain falling. It was still dark, and so these were the perfect conditions, to linger under my favorite blanket. Most days, I spring out of bed, but on rainy mornings, I like to lay a while and listen to the rhythm of the watery lullaby. . .for that is exactly what it sounds like to me. Of course, I could not take a bit of liberty, this day, for it was Monday, after all.
Cash, my dog was up and prancing about. This acts on me better than any alarm clock, for I fear the worst should I waste a moment. We went to the door at a good pace, with him whining in sheer agony. I opened the door to the wet morning . Cash stood there like a statue for a few seconds and then sauntered back to his bed. Apparently, the crisis had been averted, at the sight of the rain. I made coffee and sat by the “morning table” to gather my thoughts”.
I noticed that the sycamores were a solid mass of a warm russet color. It is November certainly, though I can scarce comprehend how. There were more leaves in the yard today, than there were yesterday. The rain tapped on the leaves, as it fell. Ever so often a huge acorn would make a loud thud on the roof. This was a day in Autumn- the kind of day, I am familiar with, in months like November – the kind of day that I love, for the world is lovely when a silver rain falls, and mahogany leaves fall tenderly to the earth.
I got up this morning at five, as is my habit. The world was pitch dark and a brisk wind was blowing. The pines were whispering and for a while, I listened. Leaves are scattered about the territory now. I always find it beautiful to look out and see the yard looking this way. It is a sign of the season – much as pumpkins and marigolds. Sunlight falls now where shade used to, for the wind had stripped a fair share of leaves from the old oaks and sycamores. A few of the roses continue to bloom. They will be faithful til frost. Otherwise, the rabbit patch is quiet, as it always is, in Autumn.
By the time the light comes to the morning, I had a project in mine. It was the perfect day to take the living room apart and clean. Soon enough, the house will be closed up for cold weather. Windows will stay down and soft blankets will be found on the sofas, within arms reach, for a chilly night. In light of the windy day, I would wash the curtains, as well as the blankets. . .and remove the cushions from the sofas and tackle the baseboards. . . and the windows are so very dirty, I would clean those too.
Before, I gathered the broom and a bucket, I put on a pot of soup to simmer.
I had not even started good, when I realised this would be a two day project, more than likely. It would do me good to stay busy, I reassured myself, and besides that, it needed to be done, for I was soon convinced that a good deal of rabbit patch soil was in every place it could be. I was no longer thinking about papers and impending dates, for I was on a mission, now.
While I was cleaning and scrubbing, my mind forgot, briefly, that I am in between two places. . . like “a rock and a hard place”. On one hand, I am here at the rabbit patch with everything possible, packed in boxes. On the other hand, is a little cottage freshly inspected and with a fee paid, to secure my contract. I have settled into this “strange state of uncertainty” with all the fortitude I can muster. We are often reminded to “live in the moment” Truthfully I have always practiced that theory, for I take great note of how the hours pass. Far be it from me, to miss the beauty of a season. I crave beauty as I do air-whether it is being with my loved ones or nature or the peace of solitude . . .but there are some things that do require a bit of contemplation, like whether or not to carry a raincoat, or when you should get new tires . . . or change your entire life altogether.
By the time, I was washing windows, the wind had become a slight breeze that blew in a friendly fashion. The sky was a powdery blue and cloudless. The spirea bushes are a lovely apricot color now, I noticed. The young dogwood that bloomed for the first time, on the Easter Sunday, that Lyla was born, is crimson, now. The pecan trees are bare, as are the peach and cherry trees. As I surveyed the landscape, I wondered if the fierce wind that came in like it had a score to even, may have spoiled the grand finale of the autumn leaves this year. Like everything else, we will have to wait and see.
Work, of any sort, acts like a tonic on me. In the summers, the garden would swallow any worries I had. The soil acted like a mother, full of comfort. In springs, there were flowers to plant and weeds to pull. In the autumns, there are the bushels of leaves dropping daily and in winter, I had the barns, that could always stand cleaning.
A decade ago, I remember feeling angry. I went out behind the oldest barn to tell the heavens about it. I could barely plead my case, because I kept noticing that the shelter off the back of the barn, was so untidy. I started restoring order, as I grumbled. A flock of blackbirds showed up and were chattering so much, I was sure heaven could’t hear my fuss over theirs’. I just hushed altogether and got some paint, for some of the boards were looking so shabby. As I painted, the blackbirds started a performance. They filled the sky and started swooping and spiraling. A thousand of them, at least moved in a motion as fluid as water. It was a spectacular sight. I watched them for a while-which could have been a year, as I was so in awe. By the time it was over, I had painted a few blackbirds on the crude boards, and written, “The heavens declare the glory of God” on the leaning shelter. It is still there to this day. So, some sort of work always presents itself at the “rabbitpatch”.
I had finished the living room and even moved the piano and sofas back in place, when Christian came in from work. I had used a rosemary scented cleaner to wash the walls and floors, and so on top of everything else, it smelled like a holiday in the farmhouse.
Of course, while I washed the windows, I noticed the porch needed cleaning and so that got added on the list of “things to do tomorrow”.
I warmed the caulifower bisque for our supper, which was a wonderful conclusion to the day, we both agreed.
A crescent moon hung high in the sky, when I went out to say my prayers. Stars were scarce but bright. I had walked into a silence that was so very peaceful, I couldn’t complain about a thing. . .and so once again, the heavens were spared, my grievances, for all I could do, was smile back at the moon.
It was nice to have a few days off – and I made the most of it. I came to Elizabeth City and spent my time doing the things that I hold dearest, rocking Brynn, playing with Lyla and cooking.
The days were bright and the sun shone so cheerfully, that it turned the “laughing river” to a vibrant indigo . I had never seen it that color and took great joy in finding a new discovery of beauty. I showed Lyla and she agreed with me that the water was a shade of purple.
Jenny had a friend visiting for a few days. Julie, from Florida came to meet Brynn. Jenny and Julie have been friends since they were teens. To say that Julie is a free spirit, is an under statement. Julie has a track record, to confirm this. She took off out west, to Colorado, when she was quite young. She did not know a soul, nor have a job waiting. She attended a concert the first week she was there, and that is where she landed a job. She stayed there a few years, but at some point, decided to try New Zealand, for she had heard of its’ beauty. Off she went, alone, and lived there a year. At some point, Julie went to Finland and declares it was as lovely country as ever was. Now, she has traveled all over the planet, always alone, but has finally made her home in Florida, for Julie fell in love . . . She and a former schoolmate crossed paths again, a few years ago, and within several weeks, he and Julie were headed to Florida. That was a three years back, and it is good to write , that Julie is “happy as a lark” ever dared to be. I listened to her stories in great awe. I can not pretend that I was not shocked at her sense of adventure.
I made all sorts of southern foods while she was there. There were cheese biscuits, one day, while she talked about Colorado, hamburger in gravy, as I heard about Christmas in Finland – and pumpkin bread as she talked about the beautiful people in Estonia. Ever so often, I would say “your poor mother”, though all turned out well, for Julie everytime. If there was ever a quote that fitted Julie, it is ” She thought she could . . .so she did.”
I couldn’t help but think how opposite I am from the brave Julie. I like to have a plan and take years to make things “as sure as fire” possible, before I take the first step. Hence, I have always been slow to act on impulse. Now rest assured, I have had a fair share of shocking circumstances. Planning has never spared me of “rough patches” nor changes. The things I so thoughtfully prepared for did not always happen, and many things popped up and caught me completely off guard. I have lived at the “rabbitpatch” for more than a dozen years, and have worked at the same job for eighteen years. . . and of course, I have never been to Finland.
I have contemplated selling the house, for five years now! It took me two years to just decide I would. The last few years, I became serious, and have contemplated the details thoroughly. . . I have studied the housing market and been able to define my needs. I have weighed heavily, what is sensible and what is desirable . . . yet, somehow, sometimes, it still feels reckless! Getting older is a complex time. . .and most especially, when it happens to you.
Now it is Halloween, much to the delight of many children. In the country, little ghosts and goblins are scarce. When I first moved here, there were several young children in the neighborhood, that came and it delighted me. Now, they are all grown up, but I remember them each year. I still buy candy for my grown children. Lyla wants to be Dorothy, from “The Wizard of Oz”. She has talked about it for months.
I loved Halloween, as a child. Our church organist. “Miss Arahbelle” would have a table covered in a fancy table cloth set up in her dining room. She had all sorts of homemade treats and a big bowl of punch, that we drank, out of little glass cups. All of the neighbors made cookies or brownies, in those days. Some popped popcorn and some gave out apples. We only went to the homes of family members or long time neighbors, anyway.
One year,a new preacher did a whole sermon on Halloween and discouraged parents from participating -that put a damper on things. I was a young mother by then with three little ones. I am sorry to say that we skipped Halloween that year. I was sure that we would be put on the prayer list, had we observed the tradition or else our children would be doomed. Braver parents than I, took their little ones out anyway -and what a predicament arose, when they came to our house. It was like insult to injury, for my own little children. The next year they went, with my blessing. They made little thank you notes to hand out, as they went along and it was a lovely time. Being young, is a complex time , too.
Jenny has never allowed Lyla to have much candy. The first year that Lyla really went trick or treating, Lyla, dressed like a little fairy, would follow the children to the doors and simply say “thank you!” without taking any candy! It shocked the folks in the homes, but it tickled me. Of course, she is carrying a basket tonight, as Dorothy did, and I sure she will accept candy, now . . .which Jenny will ration out, like a miser.
The fields lay golden just now. The soy beans fields are a lovely russet color. The sun, when it is just at the horizon, seems to gild the fields til they glow fairly. Even the , cornfields, now spent, and often full of blackbirds are a pleasing sight. Slowly, but surely, the woodlands are changing too. Here and there are flashes of gold and ruby, like a tempting prelude of things to come. We have not yet had a hard frost, so frogs still sing in the evening, til very early morning. Under such circumstances, there is little need for heat nor air. I raise the windows in the old farm house at the rabbit patch and the sweet country air wafts in. Combines hum in the distant fields and the blackbirds chatter. Autumn is a lovely time.