These are the kind of days that made October famous. From the early hours til dusk, it has just been lovely. Typically, October is a flashy month, by all accounts. Not yet has it reached its’ peak here, but today my faith in October was restored. Last night, was especially cool-so much that I put the windows down. . .and the fan was put back in the closet. I kept a substantial sweater on all day, though remember , I have spent my life in the south-and the sixties are chilly, to me.
The arrival of the first frost remains a mystery, but we are nearer to it than we were just a short while ago. When the frost comes, it fades the rose and puts a halt on tender sprouts. Frost tames the wild southern vines, which does not make me sorry. Frost also gives the countryside a sparkle-and makes me want to build a fire in the garden. When the time comes to burn a small fire, I will call Rae, as she loves a fire so. While, I am waiting for frost, I will gather roses.
As autumn chills the territory around the rabbit patch, my thoughts turn to home and hearth. The old farmhouse is hardly a glamorous dwelling, but its’ charm “covers a multitude of sins”. . . and especially in October. Books and china teacups grace the morning table. Soft blankets are draped on chairs and sofas-and lamps are turned on before supper. Sauces simmer, that will smother foods like slow roasted chicken. Pots of dried beans and hearty chowders are staples at the rabbit patch, starting in October. I know of few things better, than coming in from the cold, to a warm kitchen that smells like supper.
The sky reflects the season, along with the field and woodland. Stars are sparsely scattered, now and the constellations make their presence known. They are unhindered by the millions of stars, the sky hosts in the summer. Before sunrise, now, Venus is directly below the crescent moon. It is as bright as I have ever seen it and truly, even out stages the moon.
Brant is Home!
Brant came home today! This made Thursday, a holiday for me. He and Sydney are on the way to a wedding in Virginia. Mama and Daddys’ house is almost “on the way” and so we all met up at my parents for an evening meal. Afterwards, Christian played the piano, Sydney worked on a portrait of Lyla, she is drawing and I wrote a bit in the diary. We sat in the living room while we we worked on our “art” and hardly spoke, but later agreed we had loved those moments. Sidney and I eventually sang along with Christian as he played . Kyle and Christian left after the singing, but I spent the night, again, where I grew up. . .and I was late for work, the next morning.
First, I woke up late. The room I slept in did not allow the light of morning to stream through the window, heralding the new day. The house was silent as no one was going anywhere-and there wasn’t a cat or dog, that needed to go out. All seemed fine, til I looked at a clock. . .full of judgement, I add. I could not find my hairbrush nor my keys. I just quit rushing. Late is late, and so what did it matter if it were ten minutes or twenty? Besides, the time with my family would not allow me any regrets. I was with my children, and I saw my parents happy . . . I must remember, from here on out, that October is a lovely time for a “holiday “. The weather is lovely and the landscape seems set to celebrate, on any given day.
Dear Diary, I am glad for bright days and dark, cool evenings when stars are sparsely scattered. I am glad for times when loved ones gather. . . to share a meal-and then to sing. I am especially glad that Brant came home.
Sunday dawned fair. I was driving to the grocery store, not long after the day was born. I was having company for breakfast! Will and Jenny stopped by on the their way home, after being out of town for several days. I had stayed up til two am, finishing that floor and of course cleaning up the mess I had strewn in the process. I had almost enough eggs, almost enough bacon,no milk and no juice. So armed with a coffee, I drove to the nearest town and shopped in record time-at least for me.
Somehow, breakfast was ready and the house was mostly tidy, when they got here. Lyla was so glad to see me, and I was certainly glad to see her. I had not seen her in two weeks . I am convinced that painting that floor had kept me just busy enough, not to cry about it. Growing up on a farm, you get used to having family close by. I grew up with first, second, third and fourth cousins, all within a few miles. Of course, there were all the “great” grandmothers, aunts and uncles too. You could go anywhere, and you were “home” back then. There were no “play-dates” -you played with your cousins. You wore their “hand-me-downs” and knew their secrets. If you got sick at school, any of them could show up to get you. Many times, we cousins, would take off to the woods and play for hours , uninterrupted. We had forts complete with governments and trials . We could tell suppertime by the shadows and you can best believe we went home, when the sunlight slanted at some certain degree. No one worried about getting kidnapped . . with the exception of attending the county fair. We had to stick close at the fair, as apparently Grandmama had heard of such a thing. It was a different and beautiful time to grow up in. I am thankful that Will has all sorts of family in Elizabeth City-and I am not that far away, either. When Jenny told me that they were moving to Elizabeth City, now three years back, I knew Will had some family there. Then I found out not only his mom, but aunts and uncles-and a slew of cousins, too-well, I knew right then that Jenny had an army of folks behind her and I did not worry in the least. As it turns out, I was right.
After breakfast, we all went out and strolled around the rabbit patch. We usually get our first frost about this time, but this year we are still at eighty degrees most days, and so it was muggy out. When a slight breeze loosed some leaves, Lyla said “look, Honeybee! It’s raining leaves!” She smelled all the flowers and said “I love flowers.” , in such a soft voice. I told Lyla, that her great grandmother did too . . and so did I. You tell the family stories, in moments like these. My own mama was always good at that. She told us things about those before us, til I could have sworn I knew them, though they had passed long before my birth.
Sunday afternoon slipped by like a lullaby-soft and easy. I did take a nap, but I managed to clean the car out and put away laundry, also. The Farmlife community is a quiet one, but on Sunday it is about silent. When you can hear a leaf fall- you are in a peaceful place.
Dear Diary, I am so glad for slight wind that loosens autumn leaves and wildflowers growing, where tomatoes used to. I am glad for quiet afternoons and most of all . . .Sunday mornings that begin with my loved ones sitting at the same table.
It is early evening on Friday the thirteenth, at the rabbit patch. Will and Jenny are out of town, so I am staying home for the second weekend. There is no shortage of things to occupy my time, though I miss Lyla already. I did get the chair from the barn, painted. Tomorrow, I will pot a few chrysanthemums. It will soon be cool enough to place pumpkins on the porch, without fear of them spoiling. Today was much cooler than the past few. The first hours were especially cool and fog was well settled over the countryside. It made leaving the rabbit patch especially difficult. Then, I thought, spring mornings have the same effect on me . . and so do winter mornings when the pines are laden with ice.
Though, it was the thirteenth on a Friday, I had a good day. Tonight, it feels good to have a light blanket. It is very dark at the rabbit patch, as there isn’t a single star to wish on. I love a quiet night. It is a good time to sort things out. Peace and quiet are conducive to restoration, also.
I did not rise as early as is my usual custom. The morning light was faint and it could have been anytime when I awoke. Cash and Christopher Robin were curled up together on their bed. During the week, they are both up when I am rushing about. They follow me from one room to another, til finally we all end up at the back door. Cash did stir, when I went to the closet. When he saw the bucket of paint, he went back to his bed.
There is a mist like rain falling, but I painted a lamp post anyway, before eight o’clock. When it dries, I will add some autumn leaves and a bow. When the chrysanthemums are potted and on the porch, only pumpkins will be left to add to the autumn celebration. Even the old oaks are doing their part, casting off their leaves and scattering them hither and yonder over the territory.
I came back in and poured another cup of coffee with a heaping amount of table cream. I moved the morning table and sofa, as I am painting the den floor. It is an old wood floor that was painted when I bought the house. I am painting it to look a weathered gray so it is a two tone job-really three, if you count the poly shine that comes last. It all started, because I painted the chair, and noticed then how shabby the floor looked. When I asked Christian to help me move the furniture, his face went to that familiar look of “here we go again”. I reassured him that one day, I would have a little cottage, that didn’t require my life spent on doing such things-and we laughed. Looking back. I do not know what I was thinking when I bought the rabbit patch. I was a single woman with two young sons, still at home. I had vision, but very little skill. I saw the beautiful territory, and never once thought about mowing it and tending to vines and weeds. I saw the big old rambling house, and did not consider the keep up or cleaning it! I never thought about loose tins on the barns and doors that would just fall off! I never even thought about the boys growing up, as the rest had done, before them!
At one time, the house was full. Brant, Tres and my grandmother lived under one roof, with Kyle, Christian and I. The barns had chickens, miniature goats and horses-and a lot of rabbits. It was a happy season and the rabbit patch served us well, in those days. Grandmama passed, and the oldest boys left, first one, and then the other. I mourned the end of that season in the years that followed. Thankfully, Lyla was born and with her came a new season.
While the floor was drying, I started a pot of soup. I decided on spinach and potato, as Kyle is not here. He does not like spinach.
By early afternoon, I had potted the bright yellow chrysanthemums. As always, I regretted not buying more, for they brought such cheer to the rabbit patch. I cleaned out more beds of spent flowers . There are just enough leaves in the yard to proclaim, it is autumn. The sun never did shine brightly today, but it did not feel gloomy in the least to me. When light is faint, it brings a feeling of calmness and serenity in the countryside. The little lamp on the morning table was a soft glow through the window, beckoning me to come in- still I continued working, determined to make the most of my time. I liked the coolness of the very still air. I liked watching Christopher Robin playing with a captured leaf. I liked knowing the territory was drowsy, and soon to have a well-deserved rest . . .and I remembered how much I like to plant flowers.
Dear Diary, I am glad for quiet times and soft light. I am glad for work-and I am glad for rest. I am glad for ” a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which has been planted”. . . But, I am more glad for a time to plant.
Slowly, but surely the prelude to autumn glory is making its’ presence known. Even the ragweed is pretty enough to write about. It fills the ditches and acts like a garland around the woodlands. Ragweed does not have a good reputation, as many folks are allergic to it and are apt to get headaches, because of it-but the bright, deep yellow plumes are truly beautiful. I do not know of anyone who cultivates the ragweed. Ragweed, like wild violets, grow where they please. I have some uninvited ones in a corner of the “Quiet Garden” growing with the roses. The two are unlikely companions, but they are a striking pair, so I haven’t the heart to disturb them.
The landscape is the only proof that it is autumn. It is so hot at the rabbit patch, that I drug the window fan back out of storage. Thunderstorms form in the afternoons, just as they do in summer, and bring relief to the hot and very humid afternoons. This morning, I left my sweater home.
I am at last, catching a “second wind” in my plight to fix the old farmhouse up. I have a long list of projects-most involve paint . . .and muscle. Christian and I rearranged some furniture this past weekend and discarded a shabby daybed in the process. I found a chair in my “barn collection” to bring in the house, too. The chair needs painting and so if I am buying paint, I may as well make it worth my while. It is hard to complete big projects, when you have a job and “run the roads” on the weekends, as my daddy always said.
Daddy did not believe in “carrying on” in such ways, when I was young-and “could” “run the roads”. How many times he accused me of “using the house as a hotel”. I laugh at that now, as I never did that-he didn’t allow it. I had the earliest curfews of any of my friends and excursions were limited to weekends. Looking back, he saved me a lot of grief, in all likelihood. I did a lot of complaining at my “pitiful lot” in life, back then. Now, I thank God for it. I truly was born “with a silver spoon in my mouth” on account of my parents. . .and their love for me has never wavered but abides today.
Another list, on my mind, as of lately is the “Christmas list”. I have already bought several presents. They are stored in the trustworthy “Christmas Closet” at the rabbit patch -which has never given up one secret. I have always bought “along the way” for Christmas. It helps my budget and avoids a last minute quandary in December. I love to shop at Christmas, but not in desperation. Thankfully, my children have never really ask for anything. We are as ” as happy as larks” to drink fine coffee after a good meal. We always watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” too. I like to think about Christmas, when the house smells like pine.
I continue to work on the cello. I lose all track of time when I am practicing. At last, the cello feels at least, familiar to me now. I played a song for the kindergarten classes and they applauded . . . as if they had never heard “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.
Children spend a good deal of time celebrating, I thought. They celebrate pretty rocks and dandelions quite naturally, without being taught to do so. In October, children collect pretty leaves and share them with one another. The youngest children live life authentically and do not waste precious moments “putting on airs”. They are too busy gathering acorns and feathers . . .in October. I hope I never get too sophisticated to do such things. How dreary life would be, to lose all sense of wonder.
Dear Diary, I am glad for the early autumn landscape . I am glad for the wisdom of those before me-and the ones after me too. . .and I am glad for simple tunes and old chairs to rest in.
Daybreak was especially beautiful this morning . . I know because I was there, at the “early service” on the rabbit patch. The sky was a deep apricot color and seemed to light the fields. I am always hopeful at sunrise.
Against all the odds, according to the weatherman, it rained yesterday. I was mowing, when it did. I knew the sky looked like rain when I stepped out of the back door. I thought I smelled it, but the weatherman surely knew what he was talking about, especially with all of that fancy technology-so I started mowing. The orchard was in an awful state and it does take a good part of the day to mow the territory. I have been gone the past two weekends and I needed to do three days work, in two . . so when it started sprinkling, I kept on mowing. The drops got bigger, but certainly it would pass. I looked up and across the field I saw a white wall of rain coming my way. In the country, you can see rain coming. I was drenched by the time I put the mower up and was disappointed that the yard was only half done.
I did see the french mulberry and the butterfly bush, that now, gives good shade-blooming all along the young woods. I also found a young rose of Sharon had planted itself along the picket fence. I made a mental note to pot it for whenever I move, along with many other flowers. Last but not least, there is still the “autumn joy” to brag about. It is a rich shade of warm burgundy, now. I love the way the color of the blooms change as the season progresses.
I came in and changed clothes and then dried my loyal dog off. Cash had stayed right with me in that downpour, though he does not like to get wet. I started washing linens and regretted they couldn’t line dry. I washed blankets too and one load of clothes. I washed all afternoon. The bedspreads take so very long to dry that Christian and I had a frozen pizza for supper. We couldn’t even eat it at the kitchen table as the whole thing was covered in folded laundry.
After the lovely dawn today, I made the pastry to add to the chicken and stock . It is “Homecoming” at the church I attended as a child. I remembered watching my grandmama making pastry, more than forty years ago. She rolled the dough as thin as paper and cut it in neat little triangles. I am always surprised how some of the most ordinary things get etched in our hearts. I do know for sure-at least in my case, that I remember events more than any thing , that was bought-unless you count ponies.
It does not look like rain, so when I get home, I have “my work cut out for me”.
I came home from church full in every way. Tables were laden with everything you can imagine. I saw a potato dish, brown and buttery. I placed a heap of it beside my chicken and barbecue-only to find out later it was a pineapple dish! That was a wonderful mistake. I was able to track down the cook, and got the recipe. It is very similar to a bread pudding and I plan to try it shortly.
I did get to see the twins, Martha and Marsha. We ate together along with my parents, sister and niece. I have a lot of good memories with the twins. They are hard workers and will tackle any sort of job-from installing ceiling fans to tearing down small barns. . . and they are “cute as a button” still. (Buttons used to be cute.) I saw Beth who gave me the chocolate cinnamon cake recipe, when we were young mothers. I felt like I had seen her yesterday and could have told her a secret, if I had any. And Brenda. . . Brenda is dear to me. She is just a few years older than me, and gave me very good advice, when I was so very inexperience at motherhood. When Brant, my oldest son was an only child, we would take bike rides together down winding country roads. I still remember them and consider them precious memories. I had a nice visit with Enid too, whom I have always admired, such a kind spirit. Love is a mighty and powerful force, I am reminded when I see those from seasons long ago. Authentic friendship is not “corrupted by moth nor rust” nor does it tarnish though years have passed.
I came home fully determined to finish the mowing-and there was still some housekeeping left to do. Thankfully, Christian was home-and in the mood to work. He decided to work outside and so I felt hopeful that the rabbit patch would be in order , before work on Monday. Of course, I decided to move furniture and discard a very heavy old daybed, that had seen better days. This required extra scrubbing and cleaning, but once done, Christian and I agreed, it was a good decision. Whenever, I do move to a quaint cottage somewhere, there will be less to move than before. I am already practicing minimal habits in possessions and spending, and it feels very liberating, oddly. I am sure Jo Dee would laugh at this, as she has seen me price mustard! I have never been a “big spender”.
By the time of twilight, the rabbit patch was in fairly good order. A lot can happen in two days. Sometimes the contents of a few days are as simple as clean linens and french mulberry. Sometimes it is running with your dog, in the rain-and sometimes, you stand in the shadow of those you love and remember the gifts they brought to your life. . “in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over”.
It has been a lovely week at the rabbit patch. October has been fair and mild. The mornings have been misty and chilly-enough so that I have donned light sweaters. I drive to work as the sun is rising. I declare that watching light change is a favorite practice of mine. Whether it is coming or going, I find light to be very beautiful. At nightfall, the “Harvest Moon” rose over the field and made the territory glow. I went out to watch the October moon appear, intending to lift all sorts of salutations, thoughts of gratitude . . .and requests. Instead I stood silently. Somehow I knew Heaven understood.
On the way back to the farmhouse, I smelled the first fallen autumn leaves. I have always been quite partial to this particular scent. The fragrance of fallen leaves evokes all sorts of memories, for me-some go back as far as my childhood. I remember being a few minutes late for supper one evening and mama wanted to know why. I explained that I didn’t want to come in from the “brisk wind blowing the leaves around”. Mama said that “brisk” was a fancy word, as she continued putting supper on the table. Even as a young adolescent, I was apt to take long solitary walks to the back of the fields and then through the woods, once it was autumn time. When my own children were young, I remember smelling the scent of autumn leaves in their hair. I have journals, I wrote for each of them that was started on the day they were born- a collection of letters I wrote to them, really. There are pressed leaves in some of the pages, now decades old. These are some of my most tender memories. . .and I recall them every year, in October.
It has been just short of a week, since I attended the “early service”, otherwise, known as daybreak. This morning a light breeze was blowing and birds were singing-as if it were April. Thick clouds muted the light and reduced the view of the sun to a faint golden patch, over the oldest barn. Morning broke quietly on this day. Cash, my boxer, still bounded around the yard, as is his habit. Christopher Robin, a young gray cat, surveyed the property with caution. I am quite sure he noticed, that the grass needs mowing. . .and he is right.
I came in and started a large pot of chicken cooking. I will add pastry tomorrow morning, for it is “homecoming” at the church I grew up in. My mother did too, and so did her mother. My parents remain faithful and attend most every Sunday. “Homecoming” is always in October. Now the church has a huge facility for such occasions. No one will worry about rain . . or ants. This was not the case for many years.
Homecoming used to be held under a canopy of old oaks on the front lawn of the church. The Saturday before, men would show up and string large rolls of wire from one tree to the next, creating a very long table. On Sunday, the women spread tablecloths which would be held in place by large bowls of potato salad and platters of fried chicken, barbecue and deviled eggs. There were all sorts of cakes and pies. People cooked for days and carried their best wares. The grounds were mowed and trimmed in the days before. After the service on Sunday, folks put chairs and blankets out under the trees and we ate , right there under the oaks. Women traded recipes. I just fixed a cake this week, from a recipe given to me over twenty five years ago. Young couples walked through the crowd showing off new babies. Children kicked off their “Sunday shoes” after the meal, and played football. If a child could walk, they played. Toddlers and teenagers together. By mid afternoon, little shoes and hair ribbons, scattered about the lawn were collected and dishes were packed up in baskets for the ride home. The next day, was spent getting grass stains out of trousers and socks.
Tomorrow will be a much more civilized event. There will not be a single leaf in a bowl of chicken salad, nor adorning a twelve layer cake. Not one biscuit will be lost to ants and children will not soil their clothes with dirt and grass stains. We will be seated at tables instead of the shade of old trees . . .and if it rains, oh well! Still, I miss the former ways of homecoming. I feel like we lost something beautiful. . but I am sentimental in heart and old fashion, by nature.
My former “Sunday School” students are now mothers and fathers and I will see them tomorrow. I will see my twin cousins, Martha and Marsha. Marsha married into the family and since they are inseparable, we gained Martha too. I will see some dear friends from my youth-and their grandchildren. My sister, Delores is coming too and so is my niece, Dana. Mama and Daddy will be there-I am sure Mama is cooking, as I write this.
I will remember people like Miss Tillie. Miss Nellie, Miss Catherine and Miss Jo-my own Sunday School teachers. I will remember Miss Dallas, who was famous for her macaroni and cheese and Mr. Styons, the pastor there, for many years. There are many others and every bit as precious, that were part of that very beautiful time, when I was growing up.
October makes me remember and I do not pretend to know why this is so, but it seems, in October, I go through my collection of memories . I “never come up short”, but instead, I feel inspired to love this world, the way I have been loved. Truly “my cup has always run over” -and it still does.
Dear Diary, I am glad for the love that I have known since I was born, for it has made the difference. I am glad for woodland and field -and the light that shines on both. I am glad for October . . . the time . . .when I remember.
It is now October, and “morning has broken”. The day dawned fair and the air was crisp at the “early service”. I have always love October . The bright blue skies, of October, when filled with the majestic billows of stark white cumulus clouds, has no rivals for beauty. Leaves in autumn hues are loosed in October and bring a friendly wildness to the wind. October is full of pumpkins, small fires in gardens, where tomatoes used to grow -and chrysanthemums. . .and there is also the “Harvest Moon”- and apples. I thought of all of this at the early service and my heart grew increasingly grateful.
I spent the last day of September, doing the things, I never tire of. Lyla and I meandered by the laughing river, for a while. On this day, she was content to watch the river. Lyla is usually quite a little chatterbox . . . until she gets to the banks of the river. There, she is thoughtful and unlikely to say anything. I do the same. I want Lyla to develop the habit of observation . . and contemplation, so I dare not “disturb the peace” of such moments. At some point, a boat will appear or a Coast Guard plane will fly by, with a pilot in training, and divert our attention. Otherwise, we are satisfied to sit in silence. When I was in elementary school, if I had so much as glanced out the window, the teacher accused me of “daydreaming in class” and promptly wrote a note to my parents. She acted like it was sinful. I never understood that train of thought. I made good grades and completed my work, so it seemed I could afford the luxury of wondering about things, for just a little while. Besides that, I am older now, and I know for sure that imagination has pulled me through many a “rough patch”. I was always able to imagine making it through and better times to come. I could imagine the heart of others and their plights. Imagination is really the heart of compassion. If you imagine enough, you are bound to create-and to solve problems when they arise. . . so I nurture this in Lyla-and everybody else, too.
Lyla and I went to the big flat rock by the little bridge, after our lofty notions . This is where the river laughs loudest. We listened til some squirrels made a ruckus in an old magnolia tree. I have noticed them out in great numbers, stealing pecans mostly. The sudden coolness must be making them second guess their storehouses. Lyla laughed at their antics. We walked a good ways, til Lyla fell asleep.
Jenny finished her writing assignment, while Lyla finished her nap by the young dogwood outside the kitchen window.
The last night of September was especially beautiful. The sky was a very dark blue with clouds that passed, so that the light of the almost full moon was dappled and constantly changing. I felt like I was watching September leave . . and with a lot of fanfare.
I drove back to the rabbit patch, not too long after Lyla had her “honey cakes” and bacon. It was another beautiful drive. Kyle nor Christian were home when I pulled in the drive. I brought my things in and went straightaway to work. I pulled the spent stalks of the “old house flowers” as they were long past their glory. I put on a load of laundry and put the window fan away. I also need to clear out the beds of loosestrife, which is also know by lythrum- that mama does not like. I started a roast , started a pot of corn and will fry the last okra of the year. I meant to gather branches while supper cooked, but twilight swiftly turns to night. . . It is October, after all.
Dear Diary, I am glad for moments spent in silence by places like peaceful rivers and old rocks. I am glad for the moon and friendly clouds-and autumn leaves in the wind . . . and I am glad for October, for it is a lovely time.