I was up early on Sunday and was out traipsing the territory at the rabbit patch, before seven am. The boxer was with me. I cut the vines that were creeping up the barns and fences.. . again. Those vines and I have been in battle for a dozen years now-but, there are less of them than there were. At least, a breeze blew and the sunlight was gentle. It has been miserably hot and humid for a few weeks now.
Since my return to the rabbitpatch, I have been restoring order and cleaning. The spiders are every bit as gallant as the vines. Yet, I have not lost heart. I even packed a small box yesterday! This box joined the fifty, already packed. Boxes are in every nook and corner, still awaiting their destiny . . .as am I. I have a real estate “expert” coming on Tuesday. Hopefully, she can offer me advice, which I will pass along to my sons, Will and Tres. Maybe then a plan will be concocted, on how to proceed. The bank looms in the near future, awaiting the decision. They are more than willing, for me to borrow money for repairs. Goodness, I am drained and can not seem to make sense of any detail, at this point. So I clean. It is about the only course of action, I am suited for. Oh! I want to mention that I love the bar of dishwashing soap-it lathers and does the work needed . . .and it does NOT come in plastic!
The peach tree is full of young peaches. They are not yet ripe, but it seems there are a good many cobblers, to come. How lovely it is to smell peaches, when the wind blows just right. I especially miss “Miss Claudia” when the peach trees are bearing, for she loved them dearly, in ice cream, cobblers – well in any form. I told Will, that I will never see a peach, without remembering her.
The Pear tree is bowing under a bounty of fruit. I planted the tree on my fiftieth birthday, now a decade ago. The pears are far from ripe, but it seems clear that not a single rabbit on the territory are in danger of starvation, for a while, at least. Now, the apple tree is another story. . .
You could not prove it is an apple tree at all, this year, for the thing hasn’t produced a single apple. This has never happened, and at first I had a pity for it. The poor thing is planted right beside the sagging pear, after all. But then I remembered that I could take comfort, in that trees are not as shallow as humans, and surely do not base their worth, on how they compare to their neighbors.
My paternal grandmother spent her last years at the rabbitpatch. Those were happy years. Grandmama was in her nineties, yet was determined to contribute to the work load. She swept every floor in this house every day. . .that has never happened since . She also made the beds. One night, Grandmama took a bad fall and that changed everything. She stayed in bed after that. That summer, there was always somebody visiting, for we are a close lot and we all especially loved Grandmama. I spent half of my life in the kitchen preparing meals for at least a dozen folks, three times a day. Bed sheets were always on the line and the grass was always growing. My aunt Carolyn, who tended my goats and always had a fire of sticks going, came in and said “the apple tree is full! What are you going to do with the apples?” I was on the way out to hang more sheets on the line, and said “nothing, I just do not have the time for apples.” When I came back in, the kitchen table was surrounded by every woman in the house, peeling apples! The sight moved me to tears. Aunt Carolyn, was determined I would have those apples, and so she had organized ( or demanded ) the endeavor. That was the way Aunt Carolyn said “I love you”.
Country life keeps you very informed of the seasons. It is a harder life, in some ways . . it is more beautiful, in some ways. Tending a big yard is hard, but watching wild honeysuckle climb up the woodland trees is beautiful. There is not concrete to keep dirt from being tracked in on a regular basis and there are more pesky insects-but the grass is cooler than concrete and much more tender. . . and the air is filled with more than just insects, for it carries a sweetness, of all sorts of blooms. To see fox or deer, reminds you what it is like to live with a bit of wildness and to consider, the way you live, carefully. The earth is their home too. If all else fails to keep you humble, there is also the sky. Views are unhindered in the country, of sunrise and sunsets. There are no bright light to hide the shine of the stars or the whereabouts of the moon, so it is beautiful-but it is also hard. I am always so impressed when Will cleans his yard of debris and just puts it all by the street. A crew comes along daily and carries it away. How delightful, I think. Yards are push mowed in a morning and the farmers’ market has every fresh fruit and vegetable-without endless hours of toil and fatigue. I always thought living in an apartment, would be dreadful, until I stayed with my friend Julie, as she was recovering from surgery. The neighbors were so kind and quiet. Daily, during my six week stay, folks would make inquiries of Julies’ recovery, and offer to run errands or help in any way. How cozy it felt, to be surrounded by new friends. There are so many ways to live happily.
For many years, I had no quarrel with living on the rabbitpatch-in fact, I felt it was a privilege. Then, everyone grew up and moved on, save Christian, who being the youngest, bears the guilt “of being the one, to make me be alone”, as he said. The children grew up and I grew older. The house and territory got bigger and the grandchildren were born-now, THAT changed everything. Still, with all the “hard” there is the beautiful, here too. I have wanted to “escape” and I have wondered how I will ever leave. I have felt “stranded” and I have felt richly blessed-all in the same day. I have felt as if I were in battle and weary from it -and hopeless . . til at last, and now, at peace, with whatever prevails. Finally, I know, that “There really are so many ways to live happily”.
I have been in Elizabeth City, a good while this summer. With Jenny, having the shingles, I have visited even more than usual. Little Brynn has no idea, that her mommy isn’t well and carries on with “business as usual”. She seeks things out, like electrical cords and things to climb on, that are likely topple over. Anything, that fits in her mouth is highly desired, from little doll shoes to bobby pins! Nothing is safe. Someone must be “on duty” at all times, under such conditions.
The last few days, that I was there were sweet. One day Lyla and I made tea with flowers. My sister, Delores, had given the teapot to me at Christmas. The teapot is crystal clear so you can watch the flowers “bloom”, when hot water is added. If you think it seems like an uninteresting activity or something only a child could fancy . . . .you would be wrong, on both counts. It was beautiful to watch the blossoms unfold and expand. It was like watching flowers bloom, right before your eyes. Slowly and gracefully, the petals unfurled and released a delightful fragrance. Lyla. perched on a bar stool and said nothing, in those moments -neither did I. For a few moments, the teapot full of flowers, was the only thing in our world.
Christian came to get me on Wednesday. Daddy had an appointment on Thursday. I had been there a full of week – a week that had flown cruelly fast. Of course, when I am away, I miss Christian. I miss the boxer and the gray cat, Christopher Robin. I am further away from Mama and Daddy . . and I feel the miles. Oh, how I miss the days of my youth, when everyone lived close enough to walk in the back door, at any given moment.
Jenny fixed a supper, while Christian, Lyla and I walked over to Miss Thelmas’ house. Miss Thelma has a grand piano, and since Christian is a musician, I asked him to play for her. Miss Thelma played for us too! She played a beautiful piece, that she had composed, many years ago -from memory! It was a cheerful melody and hearing her play . . .well, of course, I cried. We were all impressed. Then she went on to recite “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”. ( remember, friends, that Miss Thelma is ninety five years old) It was a happy time.
When, the visit concluded, and supper was eaten, Christian and I prepared to leave. Lyla cried as if her heart would break. No amount of preparation, is sufficient for the time when we must part.
Christian and I drove back to the rabbitpatch, while the sun slid down the horizon. There were streaks of gold and ginger light falling across the three rivers. I love when night begins. A long time ago, this was when families reunited .. It may be that this is why I hold the evening hours so dear. This was before factories and stores that stayed open all night. Even grocers were closed and no one I knew, ever had “a meeting” to attend. Tractors did not have lights on them in those long ago days- and besides, there were many small farms that boasted all of twelve acres. A family could manage their work in day light hours. . .and make a living. That “way” is long gone, now. . .and I can say with all honesty, that I never saw it coming.
The light had faded rendering a dimly lit, peaceful world, by the time we got back to the territory, I call the rabbitpatch. The moon was rising, where it always does at this season and the air was heavy with the scent of cut grass, faintly and sweetly scented by the mimosa. Christian and I lingered a moment . . It seemed a shame not to, for we were not indifferent to the quiet glory around us .
It rained last night. Evening showers came and “settled the dust”, revived the countryside and cooled the air. What a relief it was, when at long last the distant thunder, did more than just tease. The ginger lilies took heart, and so did I.
The long awaited rain, was like a grand finale to yesterday. Sunday would be the conclusion of our holiday gatherings. Tres had left on Saturday, but Brant and Sydney were still here. When I remembered that I had bought a large package of pork chops -which is Brants’ favorite – Mama and I planned a Sunday dinner. I am glad we did, for it was a sweet time. . .and there is no such thing as too many Sunday dinners.
When Brant and Sydney left, and the kitchen was cleaned . . .that is when the rain fell. . .
and I remembered my grandmama saying “I love you, like rain.”
On Monday, I had “business” to tend to, which I always dread. I do my best to avoid any “official” thing, as if it were a plague, but sometimes there is just no getting around it. I was in a courthouse before nine am. My stomach lurched the minute I walked in. A large group of people stood out side the court room, awaiting their fate. I was heartsick, for all of them.
I was there to convince a DA to drop my citation for expired registration on the car, which was pointed out at a routine traffic stop. I declare the place smelled of brief cases, clocks and threatening forms. The lack of natural light only added to the gloom of the atmosphere. As it turns out, the “system” was down, so I had to return after lunch.
I came home and called the bank. . . another dreaded task. There was “no getting around that” either. The repairs that I have whined about for a year or so, are still needed and apparently, whining does not work. The gentleman, I spoke with was kind , but I could not make “heads nor tails” of some things he said. He used terms I was unfamiliar with. He said he could explain every detail and the conference would take about forty five minutes. I told him that sounded horrible. For once in my life, I had a pair of aces . . .Will and Tres. The two of them are a brilliant pair and Will is a commercial banker. I trust them with all my heart. The gentleman agreed to send me the information, which I will hand off immediately. . .and gratefully . . to my dear sons. . .one by birth and one by grace.
I made it back to the courthouse and without much ado, had the citation dismissed, since I had tended to it promptly. I was out of the “gooseberry net”!
I rode back to Elizabeth City, with Jenny, on Tuesday. Jenny had developed a rash, thought to be poison ivy, . . . but it turned out to be shingles.
A few weeks ago, Jenny lost her beloved dog of fourteen years. It was heartbreaking, certainly and this event, may have been the cause of the condition. known now as shingles, which can be caused by stress. We all mourned but I suppose for Jenny, it was a hurt, felt most deeply. After all, she had “Jada” before she was married and before she became a mother.
We are all dog lovers, in our family, and losing Jada, was not taken lightly, by any one of us.
I can scarce believe we are nearing midsummer. Of course, the heat is convincing. . . .and so are the mosquitoes. The days are humid now, mornings are often muggy and at night a haze sets in, but Lyla managed to see her first shooting star, two nights ago.
With all there is to do, I am ashamed to admit, that I have not read a single book, thus far. You would think, having the summer off, I would have read several by now, but alas, there is always some chore to do. Some task presents itself, regularly. I am reading articles and I am reading the Sermon on the Mount daily. It is the best advice I know of. Times have changed . . .they always will continue to do so. It is one of the few things, you can count on, but ironically, the plight of man has remained the same . . . and so do the solutions.
Yesterday, Lyla and I pulled the spent canes from the lilies, that grow down the lane. Thankfully, the lane is shady. She has helped me do this every year, since she could walk. Now, she sprints away with the bundles, like a young rabbit.
A fair amount of time has been spent in the kitchen. . and hence, the grocery store. Lyla was thrilled to get her own miniature grocery cart, this week. The store only has two, and so the odds have always been against it. The first time, she almost cried, she was so happy. The list was short, so everything went in to her cart. She took the job very seriously and all went well. The next time, we went, Lyla could hardly believe a little cart was again, there for the taking. We found out early on, that the cart was the kind with wheels that stuck. It caused the thing to stop abruptly and “buck”. Lyla had shoes on that wanted to slip and slide, on the slick floor. She took a fall twice – and once the cart almost toppled over! I laughed til I shed tears. Somehow, we made it out, though I forgot the ginger ale.
On Saturday, we went to the farmers’ market. It was awfully hot. Jenny bought a cucumber for Miss Thelma and I bought a dish detergent bar. I have been using shampoo bars for a while, in my personal quest against plastic. I loved the idea of eliminating more plastic, by using the detergent bar, but had my doubts it would work. I decided the chance was worth it. I barely had time to buy squash, as Jenny can not take this heat, with the shingles.
The laughing river, that ran by the market square, was like a sheet of glass, for there wasn’t a bit of wind, to stir it. The old trees that lined the streets were as still as statues. Gardeners were not in plain sight, for they are “early birds” in July. July is always extremely harsh -just plain merciless, when it comes to heat. It is hard to believe, that I grew up without air conditioning, at least the first ten years. Nobody else did either. Not even cars were air conditioned! We were all outside mostly during the day. I don’t think it was as hot then, but I was young, then after all. I still remember the cool shade of the old oaks. It was enough. I do not remember ever sleeping hot, for a window fan blew the cool night air in and with it the scent of the night. and the song of the whippoorwill . Those days may have happened long ago, but the memories linger, so sweetly.
The fourth of July passed here, without much fanfare. Christian had to work, and besides that, our family was gathering the next day, as that was when we could all do so. Tres had spent the night, so while most folks were preparing for cook outs and fireworks, I was cooking a hearty brunch, for the two of us. That suited me fine.
Tres and I drank coffee in late morning light. Our plates were heaped with fried potatoes, grits, eggs and bacon and as always a stimulating conversation flowed. There is no such thing as a dull conversation, when Tres is around.
We talked about the environment and specifically how the beef industry effects it. I had never thought about that, but it intrigued me greatly. It takes a lot of fields to just feed the animals – fields that could feed people. There is also the issue of the methane produced . . well it is an interesting topic to research.
We talked as always about religion, spawned by the recent practice of the church my parents attend (a Church of Christ)_. . of “shunning” . The thing has shocked the community, me especially. It happened, this way . . .Two services were held each Sunday-one traditional, and one contemporary. The traditional minister, moved, and was not replaced. The “elders” who are about half the ages of the “traditional” seniors -decided to do away with the traditional service and “unite” the church with the contemporary service. The seniors did not agree and took to having their traditional service with paid traditional,speakers, hence, the “shunning” , for they “disobeyed the elders”. The seniors are just deemed too sinful, for communication. My parents, former Sunday school teachers, elders deacons and steadfast members (for many, half a century)-are to be treated, as if they do not exist. This has impacted the community, neighbors and families.
The whole thing has been nothing but “another thorn in the side” for me. . . for it has hurt my parents. Four of our generations have served that Church in some capacity, so what an especially heartbreaking, affair.
Tres said, “I don’t suppose, the church has a prison ministry.”
Not all of our conversations were spent on “doom and gloom” topics, for we talked about Lyla and Brynn-and the impending birth of Brant and Sydneys’ son.
Tres left around mid afternoon and took the lively conversations with him. The rest of the holiday was was a quiet at the rabbitpatch, as Christian was still at work -and the the boxer slept.
Some of the country folks did some fireworks, in the evening and I watched the colorful lights explode over the tree tops in the distant fields.
Our family gathered on the fifth, as this was when the majority could attend. We had a noonday meal at my parents’ home. Will, had to work, or else we would have had a perfect attendance! The table was laden with chicken, corn on the cob, potatoes, peas, cornbread and two desserts. We all adored little Brynn as she sat in the very old high chair, with the rest of us. Lyla sang and danced as her Uncle Christian played the piano. After the meal, I watched the uncles taking walks with their nieces and helping Lyla care for her doll. Jenny and I sat on the porch with Sydney fairly glowing “with child” and listened to her dreams for her little son. It was a lovely day, altogether.
Finally, my sleep has regulated to the point of being sensible. To prove the point, I was in bed before midnight and rose early on Saturday. At long last, mornings aren’t as cool as they were a few weeks ago and the days are downright hot. I smelled corn growing last night in the sultry air, but the fragrance of the mimosa blossoms claimed the morning air, today.
The southern heat slows everything down. Even the birds do not hurry about as they did in May. The roses produce occasionally, only. Many of the flowers weep for water, now. The corn in the fields is tasseled out, but the stalks are much slighter in stature than usual, for we haven’t had a rainy day, in a long while. Now, the air conditioner roars away, disturbing the peace, but it really is unbearable without it. Southerners have a strong constitution for heat, but I find yards are empty and porch rockers are still . . and vacant, by mid day.
In the evenings, the rabbits come out, just before the stars. Country rabbits are skittish , compared to their city cousins. The boxer has always been discouraged from hindering small creatures, but he watches the rabbits with alertness and glances at me, every few seconds, just in case, I change my mind . . .but I never do.
I woke on Sunday to a fair morning. The air was cool and the sky was bright. What a pleasant surprise June has been. The hateful, southern humidity has been reduced enough to make the month mock the time of early spring.
I had arrived in Elizabeth City, the evening before. Now, there was the unpacking to do, from the week of vacation. Jenny would have extra laundry, in addition, to the regular demand. Of course, I was all set to hear their adventures by the sea.
Straight away, I found out that Lyla had built a fair amount of sand castles and had seen lots of pink clouds. She had not seen a starfish, which had disappointed her, but she had brought a sea shell back, to give to Miss Thelma . Lyla was sure that the shell was “the fairest of all shells.”
With school closed, I have done an even worse job of keeping up with time, and the days of the week. One day turned into the next, filled with all sorts of tasks. There was always laundry, Brynn needed rocking and there were meals to be cooked, on any given day. Stories were told everyday and Lylas’ dolls needed fresh dresses. Brynn practiced her walking and blowing kisses. Will went back to work. He kept track of the time.
One day, Lyla and I went to the grocery. Another day, we made a banana pudding, a few days later, we made brownies. We read Black Beauty again, for the book is just the first chapter – and we started a new poem. One afternoon, we all visited with “Aunt J”. Aunt J is Miss Claudias’ sister. Oh, how Aunt J misses her sister! Her eyes well up, at the mention of the memories. They were sisters, neighbors and friends, after all.
The loss of a loved one, is a heavy burden to bear, I think. Few things in life rival the toll of that particular kind of loss. Time may dull the hurt and render it more bearable, but today, I still miss my maternal grandmother . . . and she died fifty years ago. I will say, the first years are always worse. than those to come.
I came home on Thursday, in order to attend a doctors’ appointment for Daddy. It was to be a quick turn around, for I was cooking on Saturday, for a gathering, in Elizabeth City. As it turned out, a crisis awaited . . . Someone as dear to me as anyone else, had landed in a huge catastrophe. Mama called in the midst of it all, to say Daddys’ appointment had been cancelled.
It was midnight, before, I had calmed myself enough to sleep.
On Friday, around noon, “the dust had settled” just enough for me to collect myself and head back to Elizabeth City. The grass is growing everywhere . . .but under my feet.
Though, I had been away but a full day, Lyla acted as if she hadn’t seen me since Christmas! Even little Brynn danced in her moms’ arms and squealed in delight at the sight of me. That gave me quite a bit of joy.
The reason for my quick return, was that gathering. It was being held for Mandy and her husband. Mandy is the one, I have written of before, who started her own business, Pansy & Ivy. She is a dear friend to Jenny, and dear to me as well. Sadly, Mandy and her family are moving to Florida. I had volunteered to make a main dish, for her “going away” party, hence, a good deal of Saturday, was spent in the kitchen.
The event had been planned out carefully. Sarah Noble, another dear one, was hosting it and never does anything small. . .so she didn’t this time either. Jennys’ account of the party convinced me that Sarah had given Mandy a beautiful “send off”.
The rest of my time in the “village by the river”, was spent helping with chores, cooking and best of all, spending time with my grandchildren. There was a stroll with both girls in the double carriage. There were songs sung softly while swinging on the front porch and the daily “stories” to be told. Brynn crawled and clapped her little hands. Lyla danced around the willow tree and so the days passed, sweetly.
Such things provide a deep sense of contentment for me. They are bright moments. -and having the better part of a year,laden with disappointments and loss, those moments especially make all the difference.
I have had quite a variety of seasons, in my sixty years. Many, and most of them, have been joyful. A few were not. Some occasions, warranted emotional recovery . . .they have always warranted courage, as well. My faith, supplied both. Still, I stumbled at times with clumsy, faltering steps. Fear, was often the culprit and seemed to be lurking in every shadow. The older, I grew, the more I realised that fear, disguises itself in a crafty fashion, always pretending to be something else.
Thank Goodness for grandchildren and a front porch swing. . . and that no matter the conditions, tiger lilies and laughing rivers abide. There is something about their steadfastness, that is reassuring. “The rock”, that Lyla and I linger upon, offers a deep sense of comfort. . .and so do the majestic magnolias, that live across the street. There is just something about nature that affords a dependable – and powerful nurturing, for my spirit, for I do not feel that I am only in the presence of rocks and trees and blooming things-but also in the Presence, of the Hand that created them. . .and without fail . . . I am better for having gone their way.