” I Am Here”

The past weeks  were filled with all sorts of things.  Just before school started, I took a long weekend in Elizabeth City.  Lyla was starting first grade on that Monday and so very excited about that-unlike her grandmother had been at that age. 
There was a movie night.  We made brownies and redecorated the little girls’ bedroom.  We rearranged the play room and had a small shopping spree, all before that Monday.  We were busy. 
I don’t even remember why Brynn was crying, but she was in Jennys’ arms one morning.  I was in the kitchen and overheard Brynns’ little voice, full of distress.   . . .and I heard Jenny soothing her little daughter.  Jenny repeated “I am here”  several times. in a hushed tone.  I was deeply moved.  What comfort, she spoke. 
My own Mother still says those words to me, and most especially these last two chaotic years, when one thing after another sprung up.  “I am here” is a language of love. 
Mothers  say it-and I feel like God says it too.  Somehow, I know I am never really on my own in the business of life. I may complain and over think things as if I am solely responsible for my fate . . . for a while.  When I have become weary and exhausted my dim mind – in other words, when I have given up-I suddenly realise, all over again, that God says to my heart, “I am here.” It is never “old hat”. 
It does amuse me, that I always seem to go through those  same tiresome motions like a very dull human. 
My own school started, too.  I had to be at work on Tuesday.  Some of the children came in beaming with “great expectations”-a few did not.  An especially dear little one was crying quietly.  I knew why she was crying. for she too was leaving a small farm with wood and field-and a big sky overhead.  She was leaving solitude and her animal friends, which she is very devoted to.. .  In all the many years that have passed . . .I have never forgotten how that felt. 
The next day, that especially dear child was laughing and playing on the playground. 
 I have planted more flowers around the rosewood cottage.  There are more pinks, for I can’t get enough.  I have planted a few white chrysanthemums-and I need a few more.  I found a few echinacea flowers that reminded me of the old farmhouse and a small rosemary bush begged to come home with me.  The yard is starting to look cheerful-and I am too.
One day, recently, I discovered a cascade of white blossoms on the fence.  It was confederate jasmine.  What a lovely scent they lend to the air!  I was thrilled.  Finally, something was blooming that I didn’t have to dig a hole for!    Another day, a bush that I had allowed to grow along the fence, was suddenly donning pink blossoms.  That bush was a young crepe myrtle!  Another  delightful surprise.  Maybe, I now hear, at long last . . “I am here.” 
So far so good on all the commotion involved in buying a house, these days.  When I bought the Farm Life house, I simply signed papers and went home.  The process is very different now.  It is complicated and the volume of details is exhausting.  I was so happy for the holiday just because, I knew the bank was closed and I wouldn’t receive another task to do “immediately”! 
Another reason-and most of all-I was happy  for the holiday, was that the family was gathering at Mamas’ .  Brynn and Ryan have September birthdays, so we all shared a wonderful meal which concluded with cake, ice cream and gifts.
I watched the children playing.  I try not to intervene, but to simply observe how they play together.  They rarely argue and what Lyla says goes, for Brynn and Ryan are sure she knows best.  Dolls and tractors, tea cups and trucks, are all cast into the same dramas.  Ryan may become “Captain America” at any given moment-but somehow, the story continues.  I feel as I watch, that I am getting an understanding of them, that  happens only in this way,  Their natural tendencies are unhindered, at play.
Tres had been tinkering on Daddys’ old tractor, the last few times, he had visited.  This time he gave Ryan rides on it.  That was a sight. 
I sure miss Daddy. 
 I don’t understand it, but it bothers me that Daddy will never stand in the small yard around the rosewood cottage-nor will he eat in the little dining room-neither will Grandmama, nor  Uncle Randy and aunt Carolyn, nor aunt Josie.  To me, this matters, though it is a senseless notion.  I have at least planted things in their honor.  I mention their names almost daily.  Just remembering them, honors them. 
It finally rained.  It was on Saturday.  I have missed the rain.  My collection of rain water had dwindled to a mere small bucket, so I was glad for that too.  I decided to paint the kitchen that day. 
The rosewood cottage is small and the dark beige walls throughout the house made it smaller and gloomy.  I worked all day, into the night.  Watching the kitchen brighten seemed to implore me to work.  When Christian came in from work, he was pleasantly surprised with the  scene of a now happy, kitchen.  I wished I had baked a cake.   
It rained again on Sunday . . .and so I started on the dining room.  Finally, that evening, I ran out of paint. 
The closing is scheduled for Friday.   I am excited, nervous and happy all at once.  I am also still bewildered.  Like usual,  I never saw this coming.  I moved here in a mad rush and was sure the place was just a pit stop.   . . now I need more paint .    . . and flowers for my garden.  . .  and most of all to remember not to “lean on my own understanding”.  

For the Love of a Dog

There are but a few swiftly waning hours left of my summer.  Hence, I have cleaned out every closet and cabinet in the little house on Bonnet Street.  I have also been jumping at every command the bank issues-not” my cup of tea”, I told the loan officer., the other day. I have unpacked boxes, whose fate remained uncertain, until recently. 
I start school this week.
  Now the first signs of a garden are evident, in the back yard.  Phlox, pinks and russian sage  have settled in nicely, just like the peach tree.  Brant gave me two Indian Hawthorns- They are the beginning of the “living fence” that I hope to create.  A young butterfly bush is blooming under an old bird house . . .and there are birdbaths.  My grandfathers’ old wagon wheels are propped  against an oak tree. Tea Olives, Holly, Cape Jessamine, roses and such things dance in my head like sugarplums- Oh, the heart of a gardener is full of hope! 
Last weekend, we gathered in Raleigh.  Brant and Sydney were quite the host and hostess.  Sydney made a cake, that was one of the best, I have ever eaten,  When I get the right flour, I will attempt it myself.  Brant made a small fire one night for smores.  Lyla, especially loved that.   My sons watched sports together and my daughters chatted.  The “brother and sister cousins” frolicked about.  Nobody wanted it to end, in fact Brynn declared she was staying! 
I doubt there is little else with the same degree of satisfaction, as that derived from a loving family.  All other accomplishments pale in comparison. I see my children raising their own with tenderness and thoughtfulness and my heart floods with joy.  Another thing, is that they know their children deeply and thoroughly.  I watch Tres being the kind of uncle, every child wants.  The scene is like watching a poem, to me. . . even when the grandchildren are naughty! 
I realised on my drive home, that at last, the place does feel like home.   . .and I felt glad about it. 
A house does not become a home in a flash.  At first, it is a place to keep your things, like a huge closet-It is also a place to sleep and a shelter, all admirable and traits to desire.   But a home, is more than a structure.  It is a place in your journey, where someone has a birthday.  It has the back door for  our loved ones.  It smells like supper cooking.  When you know  which window the sun shines in-and when and know personally, where the sparrow builds a nest . . . then you are home. 
I suppose for me, it also means hours playing in the dirt and welcoming the young flowers to their new home.  I have had conversations with the oaks, too.  I know where the boxer likes to rest . . and there are the chiming church bells.   
To think, that less than a year ago, I was picking up curtains and clothes out of the yard, seems unreal.  I knew then that the place was surely unlovable and very temporary.  It was the only rental in this small town that allowed a dog, no matter how much money one had.  So, for the love of a dog, I had taken it.  I did not want to rent either.  I cleaned it and tolerated it.  I went on a quest trying to get out of it . . That was a short lived affair.  I remember feeling trapped.  I mourned for the old farmhouse and the countryside.  . . some days, worse than others. 
I was glad to have a home and that the neighborhood was quiet.  I reminded myself that at least there were old trees.  Nothing convinced me that I could love the place, though.    I felt ashamed that I was ungrateful. When  the deal was struck with the landlords it felt safe to plant the potted friends, from Farm Life.  I felt inclined to buy my beloved pinks . . .and then I dove head long and started a garden.   So far, so good, with all the business that goes along buying a home.  Things can change at any given moment, but I will remember that under the old oak, covered in dirt, I fell in love with the rosewood cottage . .  on a rabbitpatch .   . . for today . . .that is enough.

“Out of the Blue”

The sultry days of August are upon us.  Every day is as hot as the day before-and the one to come next.  Sometimes, a shower pops up and I celebrate every one of them. When the showers leave, mist forms and quiets the  wilting landscape, for a while.  Despite the awful conditions, I have been scurrying the last few weeks. 
Mama and I visited Aunt Christine again and got to see her grandchildren and a great grandchild as well.  It was another lovely time. 
Brant and Sydney came for the weekend. I made tarts for the occasion and Sydney baked a cake. Brant worked the whole time and the visit with little Ryan and Sydney, was too brief to suit me, for I can never see them too much. Still, I was glad to have the visit. 
The next day, Sister Delores and niece Dana came.  Niece Hayley was being honored with a bridal shower.  Mama and I ,  Delores and Dana attended that on Sunday.   The affair was at a delightful cottage like home, that was nestled in a grove of old trees on a country road.  The ladies were all friendly-and so we all enjoyed ourselves.
I left afterwards for Elizabeth City. 
 I was there four wonderful days.  It was just too hot to walk by “the laughing river”. . .so,  I told extra stories about dolls who drank strawberry tea with a talking kitten.  It was a golden time, altogether.  In a week we will all gather in Raleigh for a weekend gathering.  I suppose this will be the grand finale of our summer, as in a few very short weeks we return to schedules and days measured by the almighty clock.   Mama and I got in  another visit with Aunt Christine and Uncle Gene.  This time I was so happy to see my cousin, Gena as well.  Gena was the first “living doll” in my life.  She is younger than me and I used to love the afternoon visits in the yesteryears, at Pop  and Grandmamas’, when she would follow us around the yard.  She wore pristine dresses and had curls peeking out from under hats.There was never one iota of unkindness in her . . . .and that is still true, today.
Something has come up, which I could not have predicted.  Regular reader know, that I prefer fields and woods to streets-and moon shine to street lights.  I have certainly always said so.  While, that remains true, “something out of the blue”  came up. . .I am in the process of buying the little house on Bonnet Street.  It happened this way .   . . 
The landlords offered me a deal, that would have been foolish to decline, even if I am a devoted fan of rural living.  This is one of the reasons, that I have been scurrying about, for there is a lot of business to tend to.  I of all people, know first-hand, that anything can go wrong in the process . . .still, I planted a peach tree.  I have planted pinks and phlox, as well-and said a prayer as I did so.  As I worked and dreamed, my heart softened til at last, I knew that I was in the right place, at this particular time.
The little house on Bonnet street is older than I am-of course, I love an old house.  I must confess that I have entertained a few notions about some improvements, I may attempt. A small pantry, moving the laundry  OUT OF THE KITCHEN.  That has been a thorn “in the side of the house” .  As far as I am concerned, it is an unnatural thing to wash clothes in the same room, that I bake my bread in.   A little clothes line would suit me, too. . . .and roses.  I know it may all come to nothing-but I like letting my imagination “run wild” on occasion.  It was imagination that made the first rabbitpatch, after all.  It was not a garden, when I got there.    . . and I have already planted a peach tree. 
Now, tomorrow an official appraiser comes. I know full well, that he is not interested in my housekeeping, nor the fact that my flowers are blooming their hearts out .   He could care less about the lovely second-handle table, that is freshly painted and affectionately named  the “Scott”, after the cousin that I got it from. . . .I also know that there isn’t a bit of harm in a  good presentation.  Besides that,  I love a tidy house, myself. 
I can declare with all certainty, that I can not predict the future,  but  . . . time will tell, as it always does.

“Whatsoever things are lovely . . .”

The week after our holiday,” Beside the sea” was full of good things.  As is my habit, I did mope the first few days.  Then I painted flowers and read more Thoreau” .  I did  extensive housekeeping and created more house plants from my little rootings. . .  and all of that acted like a tonic on my dampened spirit.   
The painting of the flowers, came first.  I am satisfied with my roses.  For some reason, painting roses, feels like listening to an old familiar song. This week, I decided to paint violets, using watercolors.   I have a small beside table that I employed as my “canvas”.  Watercolors have a mind of their own,  I remembered, from years past, so I consoled myself, that I could just paint over, what could not be forgiven.  Thus, I began the project.  Of course, my violets would  be shades of faded  pink-for I can not be a realist, for “love or  money”.  The thing took days.  There was the drying of the paint, before applying new paint and then as always, I looked at at it and added as I felt pink violets would grow, if there was such a flower.  My violets grew happily on a corner and then cascaded down a leg of the table, and over the drawer .  Christian is an artist, and so I used his eye to guide my attempts. 
After several days of  “watching the garden grow”, I was finally satisfied and literally, sealed the deal.  Guess what I love about watercolors . . it is that they do have a mind of their own!  I would have an idea in mind as I painted, but before my eyes, a violet would nod in a direction I hadn’t imagined or a leaf would decide its’  own fate-always better than I had intended. 
 One day, Mama and I went to see Aunt Christine and Uncle Gene.   Aunt Christine is Mamas’ sister and lives about a half hour away.  It was a delightful visit-and Uncle Gene is quite entertaining with his humor, though Aunt Christine says “he is not that funny.”  I found out that Aunt Christine loves dishes and has  beautiful collections to prove it. 
The next day, I practiced making pastry .  My first effort, a few weeks back was less than what I desired-and so I hoped for better this time.  I was rewarded with a tender, flaky concoction and so, I will continue to practice the skill, for  it is practice that makes the difference between “beginners’ luck” – and a good cook. 
   After a very hot and dry spell of 100 degree days,  rain showed up like an old, long-  lost friend.   How happy I was to hear the rain tapping  on the tin roof.   When the wind picked up and it became as cool as May, well the world seemed friendly and  more cheerful, altogether.  I painted a flower pot that afternoon.
Mama and I left for Raleigh, the next day, to spend the better part of the week. We found little Ryan as adorable as ever-and Sydney -carrying the “little brother” is at last feeling better.  Now, she has the glow of an expectant mother. 
Ryan says anything he wants to these days.  One day, he asked Mama for a snack.  Mama said “lets ask your Mommy”.  To which Ryan replied, “I’m asking you.” Sister Delores lives on the outskirts of Raleigh, so she visits, when we are there and Mama spends a night or two with her, during our stay. 
In the evenings, I watched Brant teach Ryan how to hit and catch a baseball.  My own Daddy did the same thing, I remembered.  
Though, I have never liked the summer heat, in the south, I do like the leisure days.  From attending school as a child and then working at schools, the summer has, most of my life, represented liberty.  To me, owning your life is the truest form of wealth.  I had much rather decide when I eat or sleep- (Clocks are often poor indicators of such needs.} and  I do not consult a clock, to know when to make a pie or when to read, or paint or write.  For a bit of a the year, I can do as I please . Thus the summer is a time of indulgence for me, too.    I do not like the hateful heat, nor the mosquitoes either.  By now, the light of day is too long to suit me.   . . .but oh, there is more to the season . .
 .   . .For the cape jessamine blooms and so does the magnolia.  The lowly mimosa trees shine  like champions in July-The song of the cicadas ring out and tomatoes taste better in the summer.  The chaotic business of the world seems a bit more distant-even if it is for a short while, when roses are blooming. 
It is written that “love covers a multitude of sins”  .   . .  I have found this to be true -and so I will let the earth love me with roses and cucumbers , with a fan, humming in the house, and the greenest grass of the year. 
There is not enough time, even in the longest days of the year to count all of our blessings .. . for prosperity and abundance may not be in plain sight.   Sometimes, we have to look for the evidence.  For it is also written . . .“Whatsoever things are true,  . . .whatsoever things are pure,  . . .whatsoever things are lovely . . .think on these things.”

Beside the Sea

The past week was not  usual , nor ordinary.  I did not line dry clothes or tend to the vines on the fence,  I did not paint a single bird or blossom. 
Instead, I was collecting shells by a very cold sea .  . .watching light dance upon the water, like sprites.   The ancient sea was too cold, for mere humans.
Every day of our gathering by the Atlantic was sunny, but one.  I love weather, and so a cloudy day did not hamper my disposition.  . .most especially, when you have a good book . . and a candy shop a few blocks away.  Several guests came, during our stay.  An old acquaintance , one of Jennys’ friends was there for a day.  What a lovely person she is.  She is a thinker and acts on her convictions.  What a rarity to see someone living their truth !  Besides that, she is funny and kept us entertained. 
A new friend,  to me,  came for a few days. He is an artist and straight away, I could see he had a ” heart of gold” and and was  kind and gentle in his ways, as anyone I had ever met. 
Then, there was Grandaddy Bill, Wills’ father.  He is an author with more than several books, to his credit.  I am a picky reader, and I will tell you, that Bill Thompson never disappoints me.  The little girls were thrilled to see him and that warmed my heart.  He told me, he wished he could see the girls more . . and I wish that too, for he is full of experiences and has lively stories, to tell  of them.  Their grand father sees authentic  beauty and recognizes it. Then, he writes about it-and makes his readers see it too. 
 Wills’ sister was there and she is a writer and can draw portraits.  We had several conversations that were tucked in my heart.  She is an encourager and so very generous with uplifting words. 
Her mother, Miss Claudia was the same and I remembered her with great fondness, most every day.  Even with all the chatter and busyness-I ached for the weeks that she was there, too. 
We spent a good deal of time with Brant, Sydney and Ryan-and Sydneys’ parents and brothers.  What a wonderful lot they are!  They are  welcoming and friendly.  I can scarce tell which children belong to whom, for everybody loves them and treats them , as such.  I am sure that the little girls see Scott and Seth as uncles.  Sydneys’ parents love Brant thoroughly-that means everything to me.  Besides all of that . . . there is never a dull moment, when you are in the midst of them. 
 Of course, and not least of all, was the ocean.  The sight of it is very humbling.  Who can feel mighty in its’ presence?  I realised just how small I was-and all of mankind-not insignificant, but more like a valuable particle of life.  We can “put on airs” (what a useless and utter waste of a life)  and exaggerate our “power”-or “control”  of all things, but in the presence of the vast and wild sea,  as in the presence of a mighty oak, or a whispering pine or a sparrows’ nest full of promises . . .well, we could be persuaded to reconsider, our stance.   In some sort of way, such things unite, all humans. 
 The evening we left, little Brynn, fell asleep before her supper and slept the whole way home.  Jenny laid her tenderly in her bed, once we arrived.  The next morning, Brynn awoke, looked around and asked “What happened?”   Her still, cherub like face, was frozen in astonishment-and confusion.   . .“Oh,  but,  a lot of lovely things happened . . while we were down and beside  the sea.”  I thought.


The Latter days of Spring

The wonderful and very old farmhouse is sold .  I who, make gallant strides, not to attach myself to possessions, have mourned the loss of the place.  I am glad to say, that I am at  long last, with peace, about it .    
School ended and immediately, sister Delores, Mama, niece Dana and I,  joined forces for a bridal shower for niece Hayley.  What a commotion ensued!  Dana and I arranged flowers gathered from gardens, back yards-and ditch banks. We all cooked.  Mama tied bows for lanterns and bird feeders-and the mailbox.  Delores decorated and did all sorts of jobs.  We used the same  cut glass dishes, used for generations  and what a lovely table it made.   We also used something from the women before us. There were dishes, a teacup, a snow globe, a lamp and a hand made basket.  We used a small silver tray Daddy had received from working a good deal of his life, with the same company.  I recorded all of this in Hayleys’ “keepsake book”.
As it turns out, we are a good team, for the celebration was without blemish.  When Mamas’ house was back in order, I left for a visit with Jenny and her family. 
The days were filled with stories, books and ice cream.  Will had a birthday and opted for a banana pudding,  instead of a cake, which perplexed the little girls, but they helped anyway.   None of us, were  happy to part, but the sorrow was stunted with the thrill of an upcoming beach trip.  Not only, am I going, but  Brant, Sydney  and  “baby brother cousin”, Ryan will be there as well. 
We just found out that “little Ryan”, will have a little brother in November!   What sweet news-so much that I danced, right there in the dining room!
The latter days of spring have been full of gifts for my heart.
Since being back at the rabbitpatch, on Bonnet Street, I have painted an old Samsonite suitcase, purchased for three dollars at a thrift store.  I had great fun painting a robin in a branch of pale, pink blossoms, on one side and a pastel wreath with a blue rabbit, on the other.  There is a small slight dent, in the case, that I may declare occurred in London, though I have never been there.  I think if you paint blue rabbits and pastel colored leaves, such a fairy tale is not  sinful.   I have a number of projects planned this summer.  I intend to paint birds and flowers-and rabbits . . maybe horses, too-oh! and elephants.  So far, so good. 
Painting. does not come easy for me and so I am full of thought on how to make flowers look as if they grew wildly and unhindered, with their own intentions.   While I paint, the chaos of this world is dimmed  . . in those moments lies the beauty. 
I am reading Thoreau, as well.  The things he observed, and wrote about  in the woods, is very akin to my own way of thinking .  Of course, Thoreau knew it all first.
Thoreau saw how man weighed and measured every thing and every act.  Judgement was calculated  seemingly dependent on the monetary worth, of  the deeds, of a human.  It is no  wonder to me, that Thoreau “took to the woods” for a long while , for it is  disheartening, when you think about it.  What profits a human, will never be solely accounted for in worldly currency.
Thoreaus’ collection of works spark my heart and spur me on to greater things than just keeping the lights on! 
Now, I ready myself, for a trip to the ocean.  The air will smell of salt and the soils will be soft, hot sand, that shifts beneath you, making your steps  more tiresome than ever.  The landscape will be tall slender grasses and “Joe Bell” flowers  . . and shrubs whittled by the constant wind. The sky will be as vast as you can ever see it . . and then, there is is the ocean.  A shining sea that sings constantly and boasts of genuine power.  The ocean does not recognize, status or wealth or accomplishments or talent. Its’ beauty and mercy are doled out , to all without recognition of  such criteria.  The sea is like “the rain that falls on the just and the unjust” .  Nature conducts itself with such generosity and we would all do well to consider that.
Of course for me, the mighty ocean is enhanced when my grandchildren play on its’ shores.  I will not get one red cent for watching the scene, or listening to the songs of the water and wind -but I declare . ..I will  profit . . . in unmeasurable ways.

Time Well Spent

I rarely leave the little rabbitpatch on Bonnet Street.  I go to work.  I go the grocery and I visit Mama and the grandchildren.  I love to be home.  On Saturday, I broke this habit and ventured more than a few country miles, to attend a brunch honoring  our “bride to be”, niece, Hayley.
  Mama, sister Delores and my other niece, Dana and I, all rode together.  After a pleasant drive, we turned down a winding lane, in awe of the massive house, looming ahead. Emerald wheat fields were on either side of the historical home,  Old trees completed the scene.  Two roosters strutted about.  It was as beautiful a place as I have ever been. 
We walked up on the fantastic porch to be warmly greeted by the grand lady with the grand house.  I was so stunned with the beauty of the place, I could hardly speak.  The foyer was a generous space.  Fresh greenery and flowers were placed in all directions.  The brunch was lovely and Hayley was so happy.  Sister Connie was too.  She and the grand lady have been the best of friends for a long while. 
I thought of Connie and what a special time this was for her .  She too, is facing a new season. I am glad that Hayley will be her neighbor .  I know that Hayley will be just fine-and so will Connie.  All of the guests were friendly , but I was especially glad to see dear Stephanie. 
I loved her the first time I met her-and her darling son.  We have so much in common.  Stephanie is very bright and has such interesting conversations. 
I knew that Stephanie was as in awe of the place, as I was.  We were both delighted when “Lady Jackie” offered to give us a tour. 
Every room was decorated perfectly.  The staircase in itself was a work of art.  Jackie certainly had a flair for  choosing just the right pieces, and  I was convinced her home should be show cased in a magazine.  As we toured, she shared the history of the home, which was also impressive.  I just loved that house . . and  the “Lady Jackie”.
When we all finally left, the first thing that I said, was “I feel like I have been on a holiday!”
The next day, I decided to make pasta.  I have never done so-and do not have a single gadget for the endeavor.  I like doing things by hand, but goodness the kneading was a work!  The dough is stiff and requires at least ten minutes of vigorous kneading.  I served it last night.  It was good enough to make again.   . .and I do not intend  to buy a machine. but  I do intend to practice more.    . .I have also been making ice cream. 
I do not have any sort of churn, but a hand mixer works.  There are just a very few ingredients necessary, but how lovely to make whatever kind you desire.  The hardest thing about it . .is waiting  for it to freeze!   
These simple things-along with rooting all sorts of plants- have really helped me avoid those awful doldrums, I was experiencing. 
The closing for the house, is scheduled for Thursday, therefore, that has kept me busy too.  I have at least another load of things to collect, and then I want to clean the place up a bit. 
Conclusion to a love affair, is tricky business.  Being very sentimental, does not help, one iota.  When I moved there, fifteen years ago, I could not have possibly imagined, that so much love, would spring up, in my time there.   . .and that is what I tell myself now about the next place.  I might just fall in love again . .   .it wouldn’t be the first time. 
Now, on   the eve of the closing, I am exhausted, excited and grateful, all at once.  Had it not been for my sisters, Mama and niece Dana-and Christian, I could not have accomplished all that had to be done. 
I came home today, to about fifteen flower pots filled with flowers from my grandmother, neighbors passed and a dear aunt.  They also raked the yard!  I am so awed by their love. 
I am also grateful for the years I had with the first rabbitpatch.  I learned so much while there and did a lot of healing, too.  It seemed to demand a certain “way’ of living just to be there.  I coined it “the rabbitpatch” way, for I did live amongst a thriving community of wild rabbits.  They owned the  young woods in the far corner, after all. 
The remnants of a farm served as a shelter for many of my loved ones.  I also met some of the finest folks.  The soil fed us and I declare now, that I have seen  raw and pure beauty.  I have trod on a blessed path and did not find it lacking.  Oh, what parting gifts, that path provided! 
Living on that rabbitpatch,  really –was time well spent.


In the First Place . . .

And just like that it is spring, when “flowers appear on the earth”.   The dogwoods know better than any calendar, as do the violets, when it is spring-  The grass knows when to green and so do the trees.  Now, new leaves, small and jade like will stop you in your tracks, if you are just inclined to look up.  The shade of young leaves is dappled now, making lacy patterns with the  gentle sun on the tender grass, beneath. Rainy days are a “dime a dozen”, now  The golden days, are too.  I have been on spring break the past week.  I spent the Easter weekend at Jennys’ home, and the next four days, that followed.
The Easter bunny had hidden brightly colored eggs for the little girls to find on Easter morning.  The darlings rose bright and early, and ready to shine.  What a commotion ensued, as the girls donned their little frocks and shoes , in great haste, to find those eggs.  Tres came for Easter dinner.  It seems the rabbit had left chocolate at his house too . . and so he bestowed his nieces with delightful eggs and bunnies-
Tres’ days in Elizabeth City, are in the short rows.  He graduates in just a few short weeks, with the highest gpa in his field.  He starts a job, in Wilmington, three days later.
Jenny  has been like a “second mother” during his stay there-and the little girls are just smitten with their uncle. . . Will and Tres became the best of friends, so I expect tears in abundance, when he leaves. I know that I will cry, for it was of great comfort to me, just knowing they were together and had one another.
The week was filled with good meals together, stories for the little girls, books, dolls and at long last, ice cream.  I tucked the sweet memories deeply in my heart, for they were too beautiful, not to.
I came home on Thursday evening, to a warm welcome, from Christian, the boxer and the naughty gray cat.
The next day, as I was sorting out the affair of tasks, after time away, my head was swirling with business.  No matter how much tidying, laundry, or unpacking  I attempted. I could not stop the rush of  thoughts about documents and big decisions-an unrealised, old dream and a new unfamiliar path, looming ahead. I finally, worked myself in to a state of gloom and was certain of impending doom.  It had been decades since, I last had such dreary notions.
Certainly, I had to think such thoughts.  The old farmhouse sale, is scheduled for May 12th, after all- surely, I had to consider housing, at my age!  on a very limited income.  . . and the price of everything, sky-high!  On top of that, my decisions would impact my loved ones, as well.
Oh, what a toll worry takes.  It is like a thief, really-and I had apparently left a window up, and a door wide open.
I  now,  truly felt ill. . . Then, something “out of the blue happened”.  A dear friend, of over thirty years called .  She uncannily always catches me at crossroads. I had thought about calling her for several hours, but decided to sulk, instead.  She listened to my woes and wondered if God allowed me this time to ramble so that I could , with clarity, proceed, as I ought to.  I could have deemed it, a divine exploration, I supposed later.  This was sensible and I no longer felt the fear of being  left to my own feeble devices.   How foolish, I had been!
A bit later, Tres called.  Tres calls to check in, but rarely to have a long conversation, on a phone.  After we confirmed plans for our upcoming gathering, Tres talked about his own future.   I did not say a word about my quandary . He talked about his first plan to live out west, then another idea he had was to move to a large city in NC-things took a turn and a better opportunity arose. . .much closer to home-and his Sarah.  He was glad that he had entertained different options.  He had  calmly and methodically, evaluated each one-unlike me.  He told me these things, without any idea that I had been diligently  brewing a “tempest in a teacup”  for the the last few days.
Somehow, the spell of despair was broken, by these conversations and the house was tidy, as well.
The next morning, I awoke to a lavender sky.  Birds were already singing as I was collecting dishes to prepare for our gathering, at mid day.  We would all meet at Mamas’ house and spend time together before Monday came and changed everything.  It was a lovely day.  We all agreed that the meal was especially good and Mamas’ cake was a fine grand finale.
We all ended up outside afterwards.  Delores had bought Jenny a quilt she had made for her. (Delores has made a quilt for each of us}   . .  and sweet tokens for all of us.  Everybody got something.  Delores is a thoughtful person and is especially good at finding just the right thing for everyone.  She gifted me with geraniums.  They were in bloom and boasting with large apricot colored blossoms.
Moments later, I opened my April birthday card.  Delores had hand written a message inside . ,” If you weren’t  my sister, I would  want you to my friend.” was written within the message and jumped out with flashing beauty.  That sentiment meant something, that I never want to forget.
When you are young, you are so very accustomed to change.  All experiences are new, after all. After a very long while, one sorts through their collections.  We draw conclusions.  We can see in hind sight, which ones we manufactured and which experiences, we did not.  Often, we classify events -some are regrets, some are triumphs-some bear repeating and some do not.
Our response to both heartbreak and victory-really means everything.  This lesson is a tiresome one-and a life long one.  “Sometimes “Silver linings”  are as slow as “molasses in January” to appear.
Since, I have faltered, in this lesson, I know first hand what Not to do, now.  Until further notice. I will bake my bread, find more flowers,  and try my best to “look to the hills”.   . .which I should have done in the first place.

Gathering Flowers and Baking Bread

At long last, I have been able to visit my grandchildren.  One weekend, I went to Elizabeth City.  Another weekend, Mama and I went to  Raleigh.  It is with gladness, that I can write, all is well, with  our family. 
Lyla is growing up, right before my eyes-and I am still shocked!  She has lost several teeth now and does not have a single ounce of “baby fat”!  She reads books!  She will be a seven year old, in April.  Oh, these golden, shining seven years , have zoomed by.   . .cruelly fast.  Little Brynn is still cherub like.  She loves to pick flowers.  Jenny said a dozen dandelions were in her book bag yesterday.  One day, she and I took a stroll by the laughing river  She learned the names of several flowers and bushes.  . and has been using them in conversations.  Ryan hasn’t grown an inch, but he is bright and agile and sweet as any pie, ever made.  I introduced him to Bob Ross, while I was there.  That was an instant success.  I also read “The Tale of Mr Jeremey Fisher” .  It was a favorite of his Dads’-and Ryan loved it, too..  He retold the story, with many details, afterwards. 
Seeing my grandchildren, acted like a tonic on me.
Days are mostly mild now and showers are liable to pop up. . .quite fitting for this time of the year.  I wouldn’t yet plant tomatoes, but there is no harm in thinking about it.  The geraniums still come in at night, sometimes. 
The very small yard has clumps of green grasses in places, that are growing in an uncivilized manner.  There are songbirds now, singing sweetly-and a small community of squirrels making hasty decisions, as they avoid cars and folks.  That is about all the “wild” going on . . on Bonnet Street.  I have seen the rabbit a time or two more.  I wonder how he likes sidewalks.   .  for, I fear, I am “homesick”. 
Maybe, it is because of spring’s arrival-maybe, it is the “sidewalk”. . .but, whatever it is, I just can not deny it.  I miss the countryside with its’ big sky over the old trees.  I miss seeing the sunsets, and rain coming across the fields-and the millions of stars that are hidden by street lights.  The sight of the moon, and its’ milky light, falling through the windows , is an awful loss.  Then, there are the whispering pines and the dainty violets along the garden path-and maybe, most of all -is the quiet sound of the territory.  Silence . . that is often only broken by the mocking birds, and at night, the whip-poor-will calling out.  I no longer care, that the grocery store is just minutes away.
 It was bound to happen.
Now, I am sensible enough to know, that we do not always get what we want.  I know that I can have happiness, wherever, I abide.  I know the farmhouse is big and needs big repairs .   . . and I am just like “that old gray mare”,  as well.  There are a lot worse things going on in this world than a homesick heart-and I remind myself of that, when I am whining about fields and trees and birds.   . . .but, I have found that it is best to be truthful at all times. I know that, too.   
After thinking about such things, I realised that it seems to be a lack of encounters with nature-wild things in wild places -and solitude, that bother me most.  Even a small , sleepy town is just too civilized, to suit me, it seems.  I suppose, that to me, there is just not enough liberty in a town, as well.  God forbid ,the trash can is not properly placed! 
 In spite of all this . . . something wonderful has happened.
  I know more about myself, than I ever have known.  In some way, when you know what aggravates you, you discover what you love.-and what you need. 
I liken it to , when I moved into the house on Bonnet Street. Some boxes did not make the move. 
I had to sort through and figure out what things  meant the most.  The truth is for now, I am here , on a small lot in a small house, surrounded by friendly folks, with a sidewalk a few  short paces from the porch.  Since ,I believe  that experiences are  the “great lessons” in life,  I am not a bit sorry.  Instead, I must seek beauty in new ways. 
The other day, I scavenged the yard for little wildflowers, to press. (I have several projects in mind to use them)  In those moments, the world was hushed and  quite serene.   The same can be said when I am baking bread.  I find it very satisfying and besides, being better for us . . it is better to us. 
I know these things are small steps, but they are making a difference for me.  Living close to the earth and with the earth . . is all I have ever known.  All else, just seems shallow and artificial, to my primitive spirit. 
It really is much easier to live on a street in a small town-easier on the body.   Yard debris  goes to the street instead of a garden, to be burned on the rare day, when the wind isn’t blowing. Thorned vines do not thrive in “tamed” spaces, so there is no endless battle, going on.  You can order food, already prepared, to your doorstep.  If you need anything, it is just five minutes away.  I know such things are endearing to many people.   It is really  a sensible argument  . . . oh, if only ,  I was sensible! 
The last few years, I have been through one rabbit hole after another.    I have prayed and  tried to figure out  about where my next home is.  My financial situation is lacking any fanfare.  That must be considered.   . .as well as several other important matters. 
I have always had difficulty knowing when to “let go and let God” as is often said.  It seems when I have exhausted my heart and mind, is when I can “let God”-and sadly, not  a moment before. 
Until further notice, I will be listening to the gentle church bells, and gathering flowers and  celebrate, “This day, that the Lord has made”. . . .and bake.

Conversations With a Bobwhite

Dear Daddy,
It is March, your birthday month.  I think of you everyday, and most especially now.  We all still shed tears when remembering the times that you were here, with us.  Mama tends your grave, with loving care.  Delores makes quilts out of the shirts you left.  Connie takes tools to Mamas’ house, for she is the  most qualified, for that place.  Know that she keeps the house in good order.   I tell our stories and plant flowers. 
If I ever find the place to plant trees, I will, for I remember how you loved trees.  Oh! peach trees are starting to bloom-and as always, we are expecting bitter cold weather today.  Like clockwork, the wind roars these days.  I remember the kites you made.  They could soar . Over the fields they went til they were just tiny as sparrow,. to the eyes. I suspect, that few fathers come home from work and fly kites with their children, til supper. 
You would have loved what I saw a few weeks ago.  There were four bluebirds at a bird feeder at your former home.  They were in quite a ruckus.  How darling they looked with their bright blue feathers filling the space like confetti.  I am glad that you taught me to love birds.  I will never hear a bobwhite, that I do not remember us sitting outside on warm evenings , having conversations with a bobwhite.   . . and then looking for the first star.  How peacefully, I grew up.  I still look for the first star. 
Some days, I listen to the same music you loved, when you were here.  Many days, I just can’t.  Sometimes, it is just too hard . . . to remember. 
Even remembering the seasons when we were at odds, pains me.  You were such a strict parent, and it aggravated me, during my teenage years. I didn’t dare argue with you, for somehow, you had convinced me that you knew more than I did.  Some way, you made me think, that it was an awful sin, to be disrespectful.  Somehow, you made me be (mostly) obedient.  It seemed to me, that no matter how much I sulked and distanced myself . . you were always there.   Today, I know it was your love  that was always abiding, whether I liked it or not. 
Since, you left, much has happened. . .and in such a short while, really.  “Our way”  of life is disappearing with every minute that passes.  I suppose each generation regrets losing something beautiful.  The things, that one generation calls valuable-even precious-may not be deemed so, by the next.  I am thankful, that the gifts you bestowed on your children, were not the “temporary sort” .   . . and so they remain.  Having good parents is a gift in itself.
Neither you nor Mama  were ever afraid to enforce rules, or responsibility.  In fact you seemed to be on a mission.  You already loved us, but it was important to you to make us all lovable to others.   I often say that I knew everything, before, I went to school, about how to behave properly.
  No matter how gallant your efforts were, not every lesson “took’ with me.  When I fumbled and stumbled, you always said the same thing . .”You knew better!”  Oh, how I hated that. But, you were right.  I did know better, for you had drilled “better”  in my heart and soul with diligence.  I still tell myself that now, when I am tempted to act otherwise. 
There is another thing, to mention, which I am grateful for. . .the way you loved Mama.  I could write a book, on your fatherhood, but you were also a good husband-and I do not take that lightly.  You and Mama were a steadfast union-and that made a difference then-and now.  You both worked hard, you at a job, and Mama at home.  How valuable that proved to be.  We really had the best of everything, as children.
  It is no wonder, that you are missed by all of us.   Thank Goodness, that you did not leave us “empty handed”.   . .but instead, laden with self esteem, accountability, perseverance, sensibility and gratitude.  Because of you, I have seen nobility . . . so I know what it looks like.  As it turns out, . . I really do “know better.”

Mama Had a Birthday

Mama had a birthday.  Last Friday, she turned eighty years old.  In light of that, My sisters and I, after months of deliberation, decided to take Mama to see her cousin, Yvonne.  We had a car packed by ten am, on that day to head to Salter Path, NC. 
Salter Path is  situated on a small island just an hour , and the best part of another, from Mama’s house.  Yvonne and her family, have called it home for more than fifty years-in fact, they are a well known family there -and not only because of their well established shrimping business, nor because of their admirable work ethic, but also because they are good people. 
In summers, long past, Cousin Yvonne would load her car up with her four children and hid inland to see all of us.  I loved those days.  The cousins and I would play in the shade.  Angela and were close in age, so we were fast friends.  We wrote letters for years, as children rarely used a phone.  The boys were so  cute-and quiet.  They weren’t nearly as rambunctious as every male cousin, inland.  The baby Debra Lynn, was adored by all of us. It was always a grand event, when they visited.  Cousin Yvonne was and is a happy, smiling person.  She is Mamas’ first cousin, and  the granddaughter of “Mama Hodges”.  She was the least stern of the adult relatives and because of that, we were “good as gold” in  her presence. 
Mama and her sweet cousin kept in contact, but visits became few and far between.  I suspect , we kids kept them busy.   At long last, we were united again, for Mamas’ birthday.  It was as if, we had not spent years apart.  Right off,  we were crying and chattering.  It felt like a “homecoming”, of sorts. . .it felt like it was everybodys’  birthday!  
They are a loving lot to one another.  They were to us, too.  We left their home on the blue sound, tumbling by, with lovely memories-and shrimp! . . .vowing to visit more, as we ought to. 
Now nothing else could compare to that afternoon, but  we had several nice meals at some local restaurants and one morning, we went to the beach. We visited several shops.  One night we took a personality test.  That was interesting.  My  results were quite accurate.  I have taken this same one before, and as it turns out, I am  still  a procrastinator and I still can’t bear lists nor schedules. 
We came home on Sunday. It was another spring like day.  We all dreaded parting and whined about it as we tidied up the cottage.  We all agreed that this was time well spent . . .and that Mama had enjoyed her birthday. 
Monday came along-and that changed everything. Even the chill of February returned.  Now, there were routines to follow and housekeeping.  I am quite satisfied with my work and even the chores of tending a house, but often I thought of my cousins and I missed them.  I thought of Mama, turning eighty.  Of course, the world is full of frightening news-and I thought of that, too.  What a contrast of things to consider.
Life can   be very somber sometimes. The last few years, have been somber ones. Fear and anger have resulted in a sort of chaos.  This lingers heavily.  If  there has ever been a time for us to examine and define as precisely as we can, what we love, what we truly value and what matters most to us, it is now.   Somehow, in this time of suspicion,  greed and all sorts of division, we must seek that  “peace that passeth understanding” with a zeal.  In some way, all the static, seems to make this effort, easier, for the circumstances almost implore us, to do so.  Whether we want to or not, we will discover who we are.  Dire circumstances tend to sharpen with precision, our senses .  It is as if, the truth  pierces obstructions, to find us. 
To counter, all of the harshness, I strive to maintain some sort of balance, in hopes it will preserve my sanity.  For this reason, I look for violets, and sprouting lilies. I listen to music and read inspiring passages.  I think how Mama was so happy on her birthday weekend.  I plan for Hayleys’ wedding celebrations.  I hope to paint a picture soon, and if all else fails . . . I think of my  loved ones  . . and  I will remember my cousins. 

“Mama Hodges” or an Act of Greatness

Last week was hazy and dimmed.  I reminded myself, that wonderful things were happening . . .somewhere.  I watched folks taking walks, or driving along and it actually stunned me.  My own world was so hushed and lacked the content of the week before it.   . .such lovely content, too.  Oh how I longed, to cook supper and read or watch T.V.  Maybe, I am an awful patient, for on top of everything else, I became grumpy.  Thank Goodness, my family took it in stride.  It is good to write that, at long last, I feel good enough now to repent.   . .and have the chance. 
I suppose that if  many  were to examine my very simple life , most might find it dull.  It certainly is not.  Frills and fanfare are a plenty.  They just show up in   ways less recognized in the current state of frenzy, of most lives.  A closer look, may be warranted  -at any rate, I missed everything, that week. 
 I returned to work on Tuesday.  I had missed a full week and was actually nervous about finding my rhythm again.  It ended up being a productive day and   went along quite smoothly.  Tuesday was also, “Mama Hodges'” birthday. 
Mama Hodges was my great grandmother.  She lived to see my first child, Brant.  Mama Hodges  was old when I was growing  up or so she seemed.  Mama, Grandmama and Delores and I made weekly visits to Mama Hodges’ two story house, surrounded by flowers.  Inside the place was “hot enough to cure tobacco”, for Mama Hodges had a huge warm morning stove, that was on year round.  We sat in the pristine living room.  The adults talked, the children did not, except to greet Mama Hodges and respond, that we were fine, when asked.  Delores and I sat as still as “church mice” on those long week day mornings.  Looking back, it was like going to Church.  Children were to be clean and quiet and abandon their natural inclination to move and giggle. 
Once in a great while, Delores and I were allowed to sit on the front porch.  I suspect now, this depended on the content of a conservation the adults needed.  In those days, children were not privy to any adult business-and that included most things from “light bills”  to someone selling an acre of a farm.  The only other thing that got us out of the house, was to eat a piece of pound cake.  Mama Hodges mostly always had one, on top of the refrigerator, secured in a tin cake dish.  Her kitchen always smelled like, she had just cooked a pound cake  and dumped a generous  amount of vanilla in the concoction. 
Children were not allowed to ask for food at anybodys’ house.  It was considered rude to ask someone for their food.  In fact, if we were offered something, we were expected to glance at Mama, as to know whether we could accept.  This was not a harsh rule.  It made me think about the the needs of others and to recognize acts of generosity.  The way, Mama explained the value of manners, in a nutshell, was two fold.   Firat, it let other folks know, that you were thinking about them and showing respect for them. Second it let every one know that you  someone loved you enough to teach you how to conduct yourself.  She was right, for I declare that practicing good manners does make you think bout others  til it becomes a habit.  Mama did not concentrate on which fork to use, but instead on conversing (Do not interrupt whoever is talking, watch your tone and facial expressions), how to respect my elders.  (We were taught to give our chair to any standing adult, they were served first at gatherings and so on), respecting the property of others(Do not ever run in a house, jump in a house, shout in a house . . .etc.)   Looking back, I guess I learned a lot of good manners from visiting Mama Hodges . . .and going to church.  
Thankfully, Delores and I were never denied a slice of   that golden pound cake-but the minute it was in our hand, we were banished to the porch, for not a single crumb was allowed on Mama Hodges’ kitchen floor. . . at least not on our account. . . .If a crumb did fall, It was immediately picked up, by Delores or I. (A child always picked up anything dropped by anybody} 
You can believe we said “thank you”, before we took off to that porch too. 
To this day-and especially now, I am glad to have been loved in this way.  Now, Mama Hodges was not a harsh person.  I do not remember her ever raising her voice.  She did not coddle us as if we were fragile , and liable to break at any given moment, though.  I really learned more about my great grandmother, after she died.
She was considered the Belle of five counties.  A few very old photographs are proof of that.    She bore four children and was widowed early in life.  My great grandfather, Joseph, had a heart attack, when he was just forty years old. Mama Hodges wore black and white gingham house dresses, every day , but Sundays for the rest of her life.  On Sundays, or special occasions, she wore black dresses with white collars.
  A story, that I have told before, bears repeating. Joseph and Carrie Hodges were farmers.  After his death,  Mama Hodges must have found herself in dire circumstances, for not long after, the farm was to be auctioned off  to  “the highest bidder”.  This would have been sometime in the 1930’s.   I can not imagine her predicament – heartbreak, shock and becoming a widow, suddenly, and with four children.  I did not know this story as a child and so do not have an account of her state and as I said . . I truly can not imagine how she bore it.   
On the day of the auction, the local farmers showed up.  To their credit, not a one would bid.  Mama Hodges bought her farm back . . for one dollar.  I can not tell or write this story without crying.  It is too beautiful, too noble and too inspiring, not to. 
Greatness may not be as rare as we think and not reserved for only a few. This winter, I have heard  several stories of greatness that showed up in people this world would never recognize as anything other than ordinary.  Plenty of people sacrifice  their desires for others . They put  the needs or wishes of  others, before themselves.  This is a great act of benevolence.   Many people work in a service of  some sort.   They are not in it for the money.  I met an older woman, living in a shelter, due to a series of unfortunate events. I met her because, she could not stay in the shelter from 7am to 7pm.  My house was on her routine walk.  She used a walker as she went along.  After a few weeks, we were in the habit of conversing.  She taught me a lot about bravery, gratitude and fortitude.  What wealth she doled out to me.
  Over a hundred years ago, when life lacked  prosperity, a congregation of farmers assembled to protect, serve and give what they could, to a neighbor.  Foregoing a chance to profit, they would not bid on Mama Hodges’ farm.   The “golden silence” of those men, must have been deafening.   
.Mama Hodges raised my grandmother and her siblings on that farm . . . and some of her descendants still call it “home”, today-almost a century later.