From Whence I have Come


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It remains unseasonably warm, so much that the flowers meant for March are making their presence known.  There are  reported sightings  of daffodils and hyacinths – and I have seen first hand the spirea.  Today, I saw  a tulip tree in full bloom, as if it were Easter.  Cherry trees are blooming too.  The blue irises are up at the rabbit patch, I have noticed. It is expected to remain warm for another week.  Oh, I fear this is a “false spring”  which will “throw everything off”.  . .only the heavens are not convinced, for the stars remain steadfast in their assigned winter places.

I can not  boast that I am not stirred by these mild days, for I am.  I have put away the winter china.   Though, we have had snow in March, on several occasions, I also put away my collection of gallant snowmen.   . . and it takes all my efforts not to think of pink geraniums.  It seems, I too have fallen under some sort of spell,  and I find, I can not fault  the cherry trees for blooming. 

Today, we had a half day of school.  It will come as no surprise to those who read this diary, that  under such circumstances, I am heading north, to Elizabeth City.  Elizabeth City is  a delightful small town, with all the charm, a town can have.  It is also the where my daughter, Jenny lives with her husband Will and my only grandchild Lyla.  Once Lyla was born, I began strolling with her regularly,  and just fell in love, with the town by the “laughing river”- that others call the Pasquotank.   One of the first things I noticed was the large community of rabbits  living there.  They were a friendly lot and unhindered by the presence a baby carriage, rumbling along the streets.  Not long after Lylas’ birth, I began the “rabbitpatchdiary” , named partially, for the many  inspirational hours Lyla and I spent exploring the small town full of friendly folks . . .  and  rabbits.  Also, Lyla was born on an Easter Sunday and that was the first day, a young dogwood bloomed , the wind had planted years before.  My maiden name “Warren” means literally, “where rabbits live”, so what else could I have named the diary, that made good sense?  This month marks the anniversary of the diary, now two years old.  I hope to mark the occasion with a long meandering by the river, where the rabbits live.

The Afternoon

Not too long after mid day, I had crossed the three rivers and was driving through the quaint Riverside Village.  Little buttercups lined the drive and patches of them bloomed where they could.  The laughing river was still, as if it were dozing in the sunshine.  Shortly after I arrived, Lyla and I were walking the familiar streets.  We were not alone,  as many people were walking dogs or biking.  Birds were out and about in good numbers.  We stopped when we got to the large flat rock by the little bridge and  listened to a pair of doves for a while.  Most of the early bloomers are shades of lavender or pink-but the forsythia is the exception.  The bright yellow bush demands attention with its’ stark contrast of color. 

My grandaddy “Pop”, loved the forsythia, but he called them “goldenrods”.  When I grew up and became a gardener myself, I learned ,what I thought were goldenrods, all of my youth were actually forsythias.  I told Pop, but garden books did not change his mind.  He called them goldenrods   and so now I do too.  I do not see one, without remembering Pop . I missed him today.

Lyla got just as lazy as the river, as we walked.  She stopped waving to cats and dogs, and she stopped informing me of redbirds.  She was asleep, and I noticed a tire on the carriage was almost flat, so I headed back.  

I passed many camellias, who always bloom in February.  Their red and pink blossoms remind me of roses.  I saw a young mother with a new baby sitting on a porch.  She was admiring her baby, and unaware that I had passed.  Later , I saw an older woman, sitting in the sunshine, with her face turned up, to the sun.  She too, looked so content.  Contentment is a high commodity, and maybe the  most desirable attribute to aspire for, as my dear friend “Cobs”, recently spoke about.  Contentment seems to settle in the heart, and is not governed by moods nor events.  Contentment remains steadfast, in spite of circumstances, which are bound to change, at some point.  Contentment is most often quiet, and can cause you to hum, as you go along, quiet streets in a village . . . by a river. 

I have written all of my life.  Only, the last two years have I kept a “public diary”.  I am not stirred to write about causes or current events.  It is not my “calling” to inform or “set records straight”.  I am not so lofty as to have solutions to world problems, though I think about such things, with a heavy heart.

  I collect  encounters with natural beauty- and recipes .  I share memories of growing up in a simpler season and always, the difference that being loved has made.  For just a little while, amidst the chaos of modern times, I encourage readers to dwell on subjects like hyacinths and laughing rivers, rain and redbirds.

I believe, as Tennyson, that “More things are wrought by prayer, than this world dreams of.”   I am also prone to wish on dandelions and the first star. 

   

Thank you to all who read my accounts and inspire me to seek beauty and peace. . .  To celebrate something daily, and to keep my heart grateful. . .to live with less and yet have “more” . . .and to love, generously  . . . you have only increased my Faith and given me “something to write home about”  in my beloved, Rabbitpatch Diary.”   love, Michele

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday to Mama


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The “early service” was a quiet and peaceful affair, today.  A soft glow in the sky heralded the new day.  The glow deepened and the night slipped away .  The mockingbird did not sing and the pine trees did not whisper.  Suddenly, it was Sunday-and not just any Sunday.  Today is Mamas’ birthday.

The week has been full of secrets and hushed conversations.  We have been plotting and concocting all sorts of plans.  Yesterday, I was in my kitchen cooking potato salad and collards.  Delores was making chicken and Jenny was buying flowers.  Brant and Tres were driving home, from Wilmington.  Kyle was grocery shopping for the inevitable, last minute items.  No one was spared some sort of duty.  While I peeled potatoes, I thought how, though we were all separately busy on a wide range of tasks, it felt like we were moving as a unit-and bound together tightly.   Mama thinks she knows all the details, but she has no clue, that circumstances changed, and  now   allow Will, Jenny and Lyla to attend.  My first cousins, Chuck and Chris are coming too.  Chuck and Chris are more like brothers to me, than cousins.  We all grew up on the little farm together.  Chris has a scar to prove it-made by a pitchfork, when I turned the tractor too sharply, causing the trailer I was pulling to topple sideways.  The children spilled out and a pitchfork landed in Chris’ leg.  He held a grudge  for a few days over that, as he wanted to drive the tractor, anyway.  He is liable to bring it all up again, today.

I have a small dilemma to solve.  I have to transport the birthday cake -and without a proper dish to do so.  In all my decluttering, I must have donated mine to some worthy charity.  I am left with several pretty pedestal stands, which I have a weakness for, but  they are not suitable for transporting a birthday cake.  I fear Christian will need to make the ride with steady hands and praying the whole way.

 The Birthday Party

I warmed the collards, iced the cake, and made fifty cheeses biscuits before noon.  The car was loaded full with food, presents, instruments and that fragile cake platter, when we left the rabbit patch.  As it turned out, Christian drove and I held the cake . . . and prayed the whole way.   It worked, because we made it, with the cake intact.

The weather was perfect for eating outside and several of us did.  Lyla was especially happy to be at a birthday party, as she loves cake.  She handed Mama presents and was quite good natured about it.  My sister Delores, brought a puzzle for Lyla.  Lyla opened the box and her face reminded me of the day we put avocados in her brownie batter-she seemed to be just as horribly shocked .  She declared the puzzle was broken!  We all laughed about that.  She also made us laugh, when she needed to use the phone, to call “Peter Rabbit”, who she said was “caught, once again,  in a gooseberry net” . 

Christian and I played music, while Lyla played a single note on the piano, with us.  Later, my cousins  and I recalled when we were young and wild children.   They all agreed that I was never blamed for  the many  mischievous  deeds we all committed.  They had shared memories to prove it.  I was a bit shocked, but really I could not remember “being in trouble” and as they talked, I began to think it was true, as they said.  However, I reminded them that I never  raced with tractors, as they did, through  corn fields.   

The good news, is that somehow, we all grew up and share some beautiful memories that bind us together, to this day.  It was  pretty late in the day when everyone left,with plans to get together in March, for Daddys’ birthday.

  Mama was happy, and that meant everything.  She is a lot of things-a mother and wife, an aunt and “Nana” to her grandchildren and to her one great grandchild.  She has cooked a fair share of  birthday cakes for all of us, over the years and it felt good to see her honored, on her day.  “Her children rise up and call her blessed”  certainly,  rang true today.

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Happy Birthday Mama

 

 

Scottish Shortbread Cookies-a Recipe


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My loyal readers of the “rabbit patch diary”  know full well my plight with baking cookies.  I have had all sorts of disasters.  They have turned out as hard as rocks, or just burnt enough to taste bad.  Other times, they spread into mush.  They have crumbled, cracked and shattered at the first bite.  Often, these catastrophes happened when all you had to do was slice the dough from a refrigerator roll of a pre -made concoction.  I just stopped the nonsense and bought cookies.  Then I became a grandmother- called “Honeybee”,  and that changed everything.  I set out on a mission to bake cookies that would melt in your mouth . . the kind everyone else made. 

Currently, I can make two varieties. One is the “Scottish Short Bread”.   Jenny, has a neighbor from Scotland, that in her words “lives  the way the crow flies”  from Jennys’ house.  She gifted Jenny with  a batch of her short breads, last Christmas and Jenny talked about them all year.  When I met the friendly Scottish lady, I asked her about the recipe.  The next day, she sent a batch and I too thought, they were the best short bread I had ever eaten.  

There are but three ingredients in these delicacies. This in itself is a wonder, if you consider the ingredients in the store bought varieties.  I can give testimony, that the cookies keep well, for at least several days.  I have a vintage ceramic cookie box, not air tight, and I ate the last one this morning for breakfast.

The Recipe

*Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

1 cup butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 cups all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together,then add flour. The dough may be a bit sticky, so I floured a surface to roll them on. I made mine every bit of a 1/4 inch thick and used a cookie cutter.  I suspect you could simply cut them in squares, as well.  I cooked mine on a lightly floured stone, but I am a novice and need all the help I can get.  The recipe says to bake for 14-16 minutes.  I took mine out a few minutes early, before they were a “golden brown”, for I was terrified I would burn them.  At the first bit of golden I saw, I snatched them out-and they were fine.

I made heart shaped cookies, that were a good size and  the recipe yielded about twenty cookies.  It was hard to tell, as we sampled as each batch came out of the oven.

Cookies,like everything else, are better when shared, so take some to your neighbors,  who live “In the way the crow flies”.

Best wishes from the rabbit patch,

love, Michele

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue


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Valentines’ Day at the Rabbit Patch

The windows are up at the rabbit patch and the birds are singing.  Daffodils are beginning to sprout, but I am too old to be fooled, at least by this . . .It is February.  For as long as I have paid attention to weather, a few days of spring like temperatures happen in February.  A long time ago, I remember pushing my own babies in strollers, all day, when this event occurred .  It is not so rare as folks think-and in the long run, it is still winter, after all.  Last year this happened long enough for the daffodils to bloom and the peach tree blossomed as well, only to be dreadfully burned  on a freezing night, shortly after.  I think the peach tree is one of the loveliest trees of all.   The blossoms are the palest pink and appear before the leaves.  I think they are the “prettiest promises” proclaiming good tidings.  I considered it tragic, that  when the peach tree blossomed, last -it was a short lived affair.

I like “Valentines” Day”.  In the past, I have strung strands of pink, red and white lights in various places outside.  I did not go to such lengths this year, but I  did buy chocolate and small trinkets.  I have made heart shaped biscuits and always a special dessert, in years past, but this year, to continue my current mission, I made “Scottish shortbread ”  cookies.  They turned out perfectly, and I took great pride in them. 

Jenny has a neighbor from Scotland, and she bakes them at Christmas.  Jenny raved about them the first Christmas she was given some of them.  In the spring, of that year, I met a lady walking her dog.  We began chatting, and I noticed she had a delightful accent.   She used delightful phrases like “the way the crow flies” ,  when describing the direction of her house,  which was right by Jennys’ home.   I said “I KNOW who you are!”  She was surprised and next I said “You are the woman who makes the best cookies!”  She laughed about that.   The next day, she sent us some cookies and I  then understood whole-heartedly, why Jenny had sung the praises of them.   They were a pure and simple cookie with a rich flavor.  My new,  Scottish friend, not knowing my dreadful history of failure, in the art of cookie baking, encouraged me to try the recipe.  On “Valentines’Day”, I mustered the courage to attempt the “Scottish short breads” . .  and they were as delightful as  a cookie has a right to be.  Of course, I made them heart shaped.

When the holiday was over, I had quite a bounty of rocks, leaves, a feather, , little cards and chocolate, at school . . and cookies at home.  The youngest children and I sang songs, like “Roses are Red, and Violets are Blue”.  Such things are the sweet contents of “Valentines’ Day at the rabbit patch”.

A Few Days Later

The windows are still up on the farmhouse as February continues to masquerade as if it were late April.  How convincing the day was!   To top things off, Miss Susie has a daffodil and some hyacinths blooming.  More rain and cooler temperatures are in the forecast, but today was a kind and gentle one.  I do not rush nature, but I remembered today just how  beautiful, spring felt.  I had an errand this morning, and I intentionally took the sparsely  wooded path to the next  building, instead of the sidewalk.  On the way back, I meandered through the woods.  I do not pass through woods, without remembering being a young child, with ample freedom.  I hear the voices of my loved ones that have now gone on, and I miss them all, all over again.  It felt almost sinful to go back in a building , when such a day was in progress.

By the time, I drove home, the sky had darkened and the air was cooling off.  I put the windows down.  It is still winter, after all.

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Lylas’ first school picture

 

 

For the Love of February


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It is early, as I write this.  Not yet, is it time for the early service to commence.  The world is still dark, and a steady wind is blowing.  I like to”get up before the chickens” . . and the sparrows.  In the moments, before the dawn, I can hope and dream all sorts of things.  I can hope to spend my day wisely and dream of  the possibilities, a day holds.  I have yet to see a day, that did not hold  some form of beauty.  

Lately, there has been an ample amount of frost in the mornings.  The winter wheat fields are iced in hues of silver and sparkle in the first rays of light.  They look like fields of diamonds, for a short while . . and the bare trees, surrounding them,  look like statues with ebony crowns.  By mid morning, the spectacular act is over and the wheat fields become wheat fields again without a bit of dazzle.  They are a different kind of beautiful, I notice on the drive home.  The tender sprouts are an emerald green and do not seem to hold a grudge against the cold February nights, as people often will.  

To many, February is a lowly month.  This is not so at the rabbit  patch.  In a lot of ways, February is really the grand finale of winter.  Soups and chowders tastes better in February, than in months like May.  Blankets are more comforting in the chill of this month-and to me , to be  wrapped in warm in a soft blanket, by a friendly fire is a moment of great worth.  

There is also Valentines’ Day.  When I was a child, we made little paper hearts out of construction paper.  We spent a whole afternoon making a horrible mess.  Glue was everywhere and the floor was littered with with  little scraps of pink and red paper.  We decorated the cards with plastic  lace and sometimes glitter.  We were to make one for each student and the teacher.  Then we made oversized envelopes with our names on it and hung them up, so the valentines could be delivered, the next day.  No one bought valentines in those days.   Mama made heart shaped cakes on Valentines’ Day. In the years to come, I would expect a box of candy in a heart shaped box, and a store bought card, from a boyfriend.  Those were simple times.

 I have kept the holiday as pure as I can, at the rabbit patch.  When my own children were young, we had pancakes and I would buy chocolate.  Their lunchboxes had a sweet little card declaring my  motherly love for them, in a silly way.  You can believe that Kyle will still look for something special in his lunchbox, this week.  . .and it will not surprise either of the boys one iota, to have heart shaped biscuits for supper.

Now most of the days in February, are not holidays-most of the days are damp and chilly.  Rain is quite likely and sunshine is muted or absent altogether..  Lamps burn throughout the day like little beacons to welcome us home.  Visitors are likely to proclaim the charm of the rabbit patch in months like April, or on summer evenings when the wild honeysuckle blooms.  The autumn is lovely too and folks declare, that the rabbit patch is a little paradise, of sorts, when the leaves are  in their autumn glory. Whatever the season, I tell them to come back in February, before the daffodils bloom and the peach tree blossoms.  Now to me, the territory is still beautiful, without any frills.  Like the winter wheat fields, it is a different kind of beautiful . . in February.

February is about the last month, a country dweller can expect to rest.  It will be less than a fortnight, before the southern vines will demand a fair amount of taming. Weeds will follow suit and the March winds will scatter everything not nailed down, into undesirable places.  I am quite content to spend time conjuring up all kinds of dreams in February, on account of this.  I do not “wile away” the days of February, waiting for spring.   It seems quite an injustice to the shortest month of all to just wish it were over.  It seems ungrateful . . and wasteful really.  Time is quite a commodity and since I do not waste a bowl of beans, I am not prone to squander a month of life.  

Today, rain has “set in” and  is supposed to linger for several more days.  Thankfully, the rabbit patch does not flood-at least it hasn’t in the twelve years I have lived here.  Outside of the window, by the morning table lies the world being washed in a silver rain.  It is a steady rhythmic rain and it soothes me to listen.  

 February is more than just the month before March.  It is a time of twilights, when fog blankets the countryside, like a mothers’ love- and gentle light heralds the day.   Kitchens smell of slow cooked fare . . .and sometimes cookies, for  February  reminds us to say “I love you”.  I have always told my children, “Don’t forget to love the winter too.”  . . . The same can be said of  February.

 

 

Say “Rabbit”


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With yesterday, being February first, I said “rabbit” a lot.  A friend introduced me to this custom many years ago.  I was completely unaware of it being “good luck” and may have missed out on all sorts of fortune, because of it.  Now, I make it a priority on February first to say “rabbit”-of course I also make wishes on stars and dandelions.  The fact is, I make a wish now, on anything beautiful-even pretty rocks and redbirds.  You must know I wished on the “blue moon”.

Yesterday, felt like a genuine spring day.  It seems this winter, days are very cold or very mild.  I do not wish the winter away, as some do.  Winter in the country, is much more leisure, than when things like southern vines are growing . . still yesterday was especially beautiful and did my heart good,  Spring is so lovely.

Last night, I packed for a weekend in  Elizabeth City.  I also cooked cooked two dishes to leave for Kyle and Christian.  They are young men now, and do not need to be coddled with such antics, but I can not bear thinking about them eating  just eggs for several days.  My older boys and Jenny are good cooks, and I suppose there is hope for the younger ones too . . when I stop cooking for them.  I can not bring myself  to take such measures now, though.

I awakened this morning to the sound of rain.  The spectacular blue moon, was no where in sight.  It is pitch dark, as I write this, so hence, the early service has not yet commenced.  I may end up driving to work, in the midst of it.  I will teach violin and then leave for the home of my beloved daughter and grandchild.  

After Violin Class

The rain had stopped falling, and the day became clear, with a cold wind blowing.  As soon, as the students finished practicing the “Tennessee Waltz”, I headed north.  It was a beautiful drive and I made good time.  I came in the back door,and smelled supper cooking.  Jenny was ahead of the game. Lyla did not run to greet me and the only sign of Jenny, was the supper, that smelled wonderful.  I found Jenny, upstairs, asleep, with Lyla in her arms.  I do not not know of too many sights more beautiful than a mother sleeping with her child.  They both seemed so comfortable and were probably dreaming, I thought-and so for this reason, I crept down the stairs, and was as “quiet as a church mouse”.  I thought it was a lovely time to read . . and it was, for all of twenty minutes -then I too took a nap ,  as the the morning service, seemed so very long ago.  Will came home to a quiet house.

We were all awake by the latest part of the day.   I had to have coffee, as I always do, when I wake.  I tend to wake  so slowly, and  from naps, I can be grumpy.  Lyla and I had a sweet reunion, while Jenny put supper on the table. We were all so hungry after napping.  The meatballs were cooked to perfection and piled on pasta, smothered in a delicate sauce.  It was a wonderful dinner and satisfying, on a cold winter night.

Afterwards, Will and Jenny watched a favorite show, and Lyla and I played with a small doll house.  The characters that live in the house, are based on a British childrens’ program, and so Lyla speaks with an English accent, as she plays.  Last night, all of the dolls needed a “bahth”.

I promised Lyla “honey cakes” for breakfast and told her to try to remember her dreams, at bedtime.  She went upstairs, to find her bunny, she calls Peter, and soon after, was again “fast asleep”.

Saturday Morning, very early

Once again, I was awake, long before daybreak.  Outside the kitchen door, the world was cold and still.  The “blue moon”, though waning, was bright and ribbons of golden light seemed to cascade over the sleepy village, like a divine baptism, of sorts.  

By the time, the moon had faded to silver, the birds were busy collecting their first course of the day.  A tiny wren had flown into the back porch, which is screened.  He was frantic and in such distress, and  the solution  to his problem, was just an “arms’ length” away.  I understood his dilemma well.  I came in, as  it would soon be time to hear what Lyla had dreamed, while I cooked  “honey cakes”, anyway.