Inspiration from a rabbit patch
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
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.
It Happened on Bonnet Street
Snow on the little rabbitpatch was a lovely sight to behold. The cottages on the Bonnet Street , grand or not, all had lights shining from their windows, making the place charming and cozy. There wasn’t a bit of movement and so silence filled the air. Kyle and Christian went out with the boxer and then the world wasn’t as quiet. I made snow lanterns while the boxer leaped about. The boys had a wild snowball fight. We must be the only children on the block, for not another soul was in sight. We came into a house full of the smell of fresh baked bread. That was a nice day.
That night the powdery snow became ice. We did not lose power, thankfully. Jenny told me the adventures they had with snow. The girls could not get enough of it and were exhausted by evening. Brant has to work in such conditions, but Sydney and her parents made sure that Ryan enjoyed the day. The pictures they sent proved it was a memorable event, for all of them. They built a snow family, with a cat-and when Brant arrived, Ryan had sled rides. It is safe to say, that not a single one of the grandchildren went lacking in joy, this day!
I do not work on Mondays, and schools were closed. I have a lot of reading to do for my job and a bit of paperwork. There are also a few little projects to do in the house. An extra good supper is planned, for I have the extra time.
My youth was full of bigshot dreams. Life winnowed them out, until at last, I ended up right where I ought to be. I wouldn’t have guessed how much pleasure could be derived from just tending the house and cooking for my loved ones. I never thought big enough to understand the joy of growing flowers or having pets or writing about such things. No one ever says, ‘I want to be a grandmother, when I grow up”, yet it is one of the best things that could ever happen to us.
Today I sit in another drafty, very old house as content as I can be. . . and thinking about what to cook for supper. It does not take “fame and fortune” to live happily, as it turns out.
By Wednesday, only remnants of snow, in shady nooks, remained. There was sunshine-clear and brightly shining -but it has been cold ever since the grand event.
Believe it or not, another winter storm is in the forecast for the coming weekend. There is a chance of snow again. Snow or not, it will be brutally cold. Kyle asked if I would make crepes again, at the prospect of snow.
Thursday, was a busy day. I left school, later than usual, then I had several tasks to accomplish. I felt unusually tired . . but it was the headache that stopped me altogether. I do not suffer with headaches . . not even occasionally. It was the worst headache, that I could have imagined. My eyes hurt, so that I could not hold them open. My ears hurt, my throat hurt- so I went to bed before seven! The next morning, which was Friday, I woke with body aches and weakness. The headache was better. A test confirmed my suspicions . . I had covid. With the headache reduced to just an awful memory now, I just feel like I have a cold-or a mild flu.
As I was remembering my elders, that morning, I thought first of Aunt Josie, for it was her birthday. Aunt Josie, my moms’ sister, had married quite young. She married an especially handsome man who was in the army and off she went so far away, from everything she knew. Aunt Josie was either very brave or madly in love (or both) to go halfway across the country-away from the farm-away from her family. Back then, folks did not travel as they do now. Both Kansas and Texas seemed like foreign soil, when I was very young.
Maybe, I was four or five, when Aunt Josie came back to the farm. By then, she had two little sons. There had been so much cleaning and scrubbing going on, that I was quite certain these people were quite special . . and they were. I still remember meeting them for the first time in Pop and Grandmas’ living room. I do not remember when, but my cousins, Chuck and Chris became more like brothers to me than cousins. They remain that way, to this day.
Aunt Josie was a cheerful aunt with a beautiful smile and the handsome uncle Charlie, had a distinct laugh.. . and he laughed a lot. Aunt Josie had learned some new dishes, that were quite unfamiliar to us country folks. She made goulash and spaghetti! In the summer evenings the adults would play cards and listen to Hank Williams, while we untamed kids ran wild as rabbits. . .left to our own devices.
Aunt Josie and I were close, to her last day . . and I still miss her.
The wind was blowing with a vengeance, when I woke today. It was eight degrees and there was but a slight dusting of snow was on the rooftops.
I wasn’t going to make snow lanterns anyway.
Happy Birthday Jenny . . .and Snow on Bonnet Street!
I was waiting for snow, the last time I wrote . . . I still am! There were a few snow showers, last weekend, certainly nothing to brag about. Now, a winter storm is forecasted this weekend. Everything here is closed. We are all waiting for snow and ice. Snow is welcome -but ice with all of its’ beauty is known to break old trees and hinder power. We are as unequipped as ever, in the south and so we all stay home. Only those who must, go out. Our emergency heroes, first responders, linemen and other such noble servants, brave these unfamiliar elements so the rest of us are safe and warm.
When the forecast first hinted at inclement weather, I turned my thoughts to my usual agenda for such occasions-food and books and writing-maybe an old movie or two. We are supposed to have this thing upon us for several days. I made haste to get to the grocery store, as I knew full well, pickings would soon be slim. The stores are never at full capacity these days, storm or not. I did find what I needed to make crepes and pizza. Most things needed were already in stock in the little house on Bonnet Street, for I am likely to make anything, anytime.
Jenny had a birthday on Thursday. I used to call her “my little snowbird”, for it was likely to snow on her birthday, the few years that we get snow. Today is further proof of that.
What a treasure, my only daughter is. She was born with the heart of a mother-and a quick mind. These traits show up now, for she takes care of all of us. Jenny pays keen attention to our needs-and acts on it. If I need advice, I go to Jenny, for she has an understanding of my heart, second only to God, I think. I believe her brothers would say the same thing.
Now, Jenny is a mother-of two little girls. She is a sensible and loving mother. The “extra mile” does not intimidate our Jenny and so she knows it by heart. Of all the things that a daughter can accomplish, being a good mother “takes the cake” to me. What could matter more, after all?
I went over the day of her birth, all day yesterday. How clearly I remember the details. Some memories are recalled with precision, even after decades. I had another name picked out for the baby-two in fact for in those days, we did not know if the baby would be a boy or a girl. You had to be prepared for both. The name that I had chosen, for a little girl, was only loved by me. Her father accepted it, but I didn’t think he was so fond of it, either. When I looked at this bundle of wonder I abandoned my first choice. I decided that she looked like a “Jenny” and so she was named in that way. I remember rocking her, by the woodstove, those first days home and neighbors coming in, full of excitement. . .to see our Jenny. Now, here I sit waiting for snow, just as I did on her first birthday, all those moons ago.
While I waited, a pot of soup simmered. I was constantly looking out the window to see if snow was falling from that silver sky. It was about thirty degrees, not counting the wind chill. I have only seen snow falling a very few times, in my life, for it usually falls at night, here-if at all.
When the silver sky, grayed, sleet started. It made a tinging sound on the tin roof. We ate soup and then had a dessert of pancakes with fried apples and caramel sauce and whipped cream. I went to bed soon after . . .still waiting for snow. Kyle woke me at some odd early hour to say, it was at last snowing.
I got up before dawn to a beautiful winter scene. I think we had about four icy inches. My first thought was of the little grandchildren. Lyla has been wishing for snow for two years. Brynn does not remember snow, as she is just three. Ryan saw snow falling last weekend, but has never walked in it or really touched it! I am sure though, that this morning, all are building a snowman and maybe Ryan-a snow fort-knowing Brant.
I am not sure how icy the snow is, for I have been drinking coffee by a window. While, I was gazing out at Bonnet street in winter, a little bird flew up to say good morning. I had never seen his kind. He was gray on the back with a bright yellow stripe on either side of his breast. We stared at one another in a friendly way for a few moments and then he flew off, as if he had an appointment. Straight away, I sought to identify the lovely creature. He was a Myrtle warbler, it turns out, and he is welcomed back anytime.
Now today, the crepes are on the menu-and Kyle wants brownies. Christian chose the supper. Until further notice, I will be reading or making snow lanterns, writing or in the kitchen . . .and every time I glance out the window, I will keep my pealed on the silent beauty of a snowfall . . .and for my new feathered friend.
Winter is a Time to Remember
The first light this morning was a pale golden quiet color. How softly the sun proclaimed the day . . like it was telling a secret, in a whisper. . . meant only for the early birds.
I spent the new year with my three oldest children-and the grandchildren. The weather was unseasonably warm. We exchanged gifts right off and then had all sorts of fancy snacks. It reminded me of “old Christmas”, though it was too early for that. The whole time we were together seemed like a constant celebration and I think we were all sorry when it ended. Cold, windy weather was coming and a slight chance of snow, with it. In the south, even a “slight chance” causes a commotion.
I left early on Monday, in thunder and lightening, wind and rain . . .and it was cold! That afternoon, snow fell on the rabbitpatch, but not a single flake stuck. I spent time just watching it fall and paid no attention to dust and dishes.
I have mentioned before, that I do not make New Year resolutions, for first, I can not keep them . . .most especially if the resolution requires some rigid routine or restrictions of any sort. I am weary of them by February-and disappointed in my self. I do self reflect and revaluate and clearly define my priorities, regularly. Once, I am convinced of something, I am likely to be successful . . .but it could happen on a Tuesday in May! Prompts seem to spring up , when I am least expecting them! I became a vegetarian, one year in October and I did a massive decluttering, several years back, in the hot month of July- I stuck to those things.
Oddly, though, just before Thanksgiving, this past year, a “prompt” popped up “out of the blue” and another one, this week. One, is another way to simplify-and the other adds more enrichment in my life. I value authenticity and both ideas support that, so now I am once again pondering “lofty notions”, while I peel potatoes.
I finally took down the Christmas decorations. I always wait for “old Christmas” to do so. “Old Christmas” helps me admit that Christmas is really over and it is always a very spiritual thing for me. There are less distractions, for one and I find that I really can focus more on the Gift, the grandest of all, bestowed on this world. I take it personally. While I disassemble the tree and pack away the wreaths, I feel melancholy and grateful, all at once.
Now winter seems to have finally settled in, in the little coastal town, that I now abide. Skies are often pewter and the trees hold no secrets. I love their bare branches and want to be like them, for their beauty changes , but is constant, in all forms. Jade leaves in spring, scarlet in fall, blossoms, fruit or nuts , resting or not . . . I love trees. In winter, their shadows fall in lacy patterns and I have yet to see two tapestries alike.
Winter is the time to make creamy soups and stews. It is a time to make bread and roast potatoes. . .or make a good pot of beans The smell of a kitchen in winter is cozy and warm. It is a happy time, when the family walks in to such a kitchen . I remember well how good it was to come home from school to Mama frying chicken. Daddy would pull up from work and every day we celebrated, when all were safely in. Those were “golden” days.
I am often accused of being old fashion-and with good reason. People my age certainly know about progression, for we have lived through it and have seen the results. Some of our new methods are wonderful . . .and some are not. It is just that simple. As the world rushes on, I will pause, as needed. I will daydream by still waters and grow hyacinths and read poetry and linger with wild things in wild places . . .so maybe I am old fashion, after all.
The time of winter is a time to remember what things matter. The heart may be fickle at times . . . but not always. Somehow, regardless of intellect, culture or worldly status . . or whether or not we are listening- we know our truth, for it rings out like a church bell. . . and most especially in the quiet of winter.
Now snow is in the forecast again and what an uproar that causes, amongst the southerners ! Southerners either love it or they don’t. It is only a “chance”, but those of us who love it are clinging to it. No one has to shovel out their drive way, for the place shuts up altogether. If we get any snow at all, it is gone quickly, so I am not sure what all there isn’t to love.
In light of even the possibility, I am already plotting. What will I read, what will I cook and most of all, what will I ponder? .
Just Before Christmas, at the Little Rabbitpatch
Just now, the day is dimly lit and so quiet. The boxer and the soft gray cat have had their breakfast. Christian is leaving for work . . .and the Christmas lights are shining brightly.
Morning is one of my favorite times. Oh! What lofty notions come to me in the morning. I start out contemplative and reflective. I think of my loved ones-even those long passed. In this way, I remember them. I suppose this is a kind of tribute. The gifts they gave me, have lingered all of my life, after all. . . . and then, suddenly, I am planning tasks . . and supper!
The little rabbitpatch is now, decked out for Christmas. There are little fairy lights on boughs of cedar at both entrances, several wreaths and solar lanterns hanging in unlikely places. The cowbells that adorn the crepe myrtle, are tied with long ribbons and look as merry as anything. The little house on Bonnet Street, is not the only place full of Christmas spirit-so is Mamas’ house.
My sisters and I met there on Monday . We” decked the halls”-and put up the tree. We had a good meal and Mama made Delores, her favorite cake for an early birthday celebration. Niece Hayley is now engaged! so we threw out some wedding ideas for sister Connie . . and we planned a birthday trip for Mama in February! It was lovely time, altogether.
Back at the little rabbitpatch, Christmas music wafts through the house softly-and almost constantly. I like the old carols best. There is such an over abundance of distractions from the holiness of Christmas, so I take what measures I can, to avoid the worldly clutter. . . and there is so very much clutter.
I have always tried to stay focused on the spiritual meaning of the holiday, but this year especially, I have ramped up my intentions. Truthfully, I regret having not celebrated with any gumption, the past two years. Grief, busyness and loss , now seem like lame excuses to dismiss such a holy time. This year, I will do better.
I went to Elizabeth City, this past weekend. How good to see “the littlest women” in the family.
Brynn was sick with an awful something, about the whole time. Oh, how tenderly she was cared for. Jenny had pineapple juice, chicken broth and honey on hand at all times. Lyla brought water and a soft Christmas blanket, whenever Brynn whimpered.
One day, Lyla and I took Aunt J, some special treats. On the way back, we took the long way, to see Christmas lights. I hope we can do that again before the holiday season ends. When we got home, Lyla made a “wish on a star”-it was really Venus and I told her, but she decided to take a chance and wish anyway. I did too. . . .just in case. She did not wish for a toy . . .and neither did I. To me, that moment was a bright, silver one.
On Monday, Brynn still had the hacking cough, but her eyes were bright and her little cheeks had a rosy glow. Jenny kept Brynn home because of that cough. I left on Tuesday, for I had to work on Wednesday.
Saturday was a happy day. Tres and Sarah are spending Christmas in Florida with Sarahs’ family. Sarahs’ parents are so excited. Sarahs’ mom has already sent pictures of some mighty fancy baked goods. I could just feel her joyful excitement as I saw the pictures. In light of this trip, I hosted my first occasion at the new rabbitpatch. We had a brunch. Tres, Sarah, Mama and Kyle came- and Christian came after work. I finally used my Christmas China and how lovely the table looked! It was a simple, but extra special way to spend the day.
Another thing . . .and if folks laugh as they read this, I will not take offense. The first rabbitpatch, is under contract-again. If I sound less than enthusiastic it is only because, I am. I certainly hope to sell it . .and maybe, the third time is a charm after all.
Just now, I am going through the motions, as if it really will transpire, however, I am well versed in how quickly things can change, in general. With that in mind, I have developed the awful art of second guessing everything. It is tiring and since truthfully, there is really no certainty to anything under the sun, it is a fruitless practice. I am questioning my lofty notions, that I have dwelled on for a few years now . . or are they sensible ideas? Somedays, I feel overly cautious, on how to proceed- certain that calamity is just around the bend-other times, I feel like following my heart (or my gut) certain that I am on my course.
Now, everything, that has ever knocked the wind out of me . . . I never saw coming. The things that robbed me of appetite and sleep . . .well none of them ever happened.
When peace seems as fleeting as a flock of sparrows, I remind myself of that. Surely, I am one of Gods’ most fickle servants!
While I was pleading-or whining, in my prayers, I asked God outright to let me know SOMETHING! In about three minutes, a small rabbit hopped down the sidewalk and right in the “plum House” yard!
It was the first time that I had seen a rabbit since, I left Farm Life. I haven’t a clue, what to make of it. . .if anything . . but it was something. It seems. looking back, that many times, my answers are veiled and do not come to light til later on. Time will tell, as it always does.
The Little House on Bonnet Street
We are almost settled at the little house on Bonnet Street. Of course, now it is the holiday season, and even the most established routines are altered in the season. The only way a place starts to feel like home, is to live in it a while. It has to rain, and likewise, the sun has to shine til you know where light and shadow falls and the kitchen has to smell like supper cooking. Like every other genuine treasure in life, it takes time. One day you suddenly realise . . . you are home. The little house on the corner is starting to feel like home.
Mama and I went to see sister Connie the Saturday before Thanksgiving. She was cooking supper for about fifteen people and with ease, she moved from one pot to another without a trace of worry. Connie is a sensible person and her feathers are not easily ruffled. She is steadfast and we are all blessed to call her our own. It was a lovely time on that perfect late autumn day.
It was a very short work week, with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching. I spent Wednesday night at Mamas’ to prepare for the gathering on Thursday. We spent most of the day in kitchen. Mama cooked sweet potatoes and pies. I spent a good deal of time on collards. I made enough biscuits for the biscuit stuffing-and our supper. I also rummaged through boxes looking for table cloths. We were both tired that evening and I went to bed, determined to rise early to peel apples!
All of our efforts paid off, for when the kids arrived, we only had to cream the potatoes and make the gravy. It was a brisk and bright day and a lot of us ate outside. “Baby brother cousin”, Ryan and his “sister cousins” ran around the yard. (This is how they refer to one another) What a precious sight to behold-and especially while you are eating pie!
No one left empty handed that day. Instead we packaged pie, caramel apple dumplings, collards and sister Delores’ broccoli casserole, fresh eggs and bread from Connie . . until the kitchen looked like we had never been there!
The next day, I decorated for Christmas. I have always waited til December to do so, but I have not decorated for two years. Daddy was sick one year-then Julie died last year . . .and there was also all those covid restrictions. Several of my neighbors had decorated before Thanksgiving and that had stirred me to follow suit. I loved the cheerful lights and how happy they all were as they toiled. I laughed at the celebrations when an old strand of lights worked. Now this little rabbitpatch is adorned with twinkling lights and ribbons. I cut cedar from a tree in the yard and made several little arrangements. I like an almost wild and natural look. I will use apples and oranges in the house- and candles and soft carols to fill the air. The tree is not up, but I will work on that, shortly. First, I must make a trip to retrieve it.
One afternoon, Brant, Jenny and their families stopped by, for they had not seen the house, except for pictures. Tres and Sarah came too. They had helped me move and even they were surprised with the now, cozy little cottage . We listened to old Christmas songs-which are our favorite ones, ate cookies that Sydney made and watched the most darling little ones play. That was a happy time for me.
I have discovered more things about myself as of recently. I thought that I liked simplicity . . .but I embrace it now, more than ever. In fact, I am more determined than ever to live as simply as I can. From food to activities-from possessions to products . . .I am on a mission.
I like living in a smaller house. It suits me at this particular season of life. It makes sense financially, certainly, but there is a lot less housekeeping too. Also, a big house with vacant rooms feels different-lonelier and hollow, at times.
I do like old houses. I just can not convince myself, otherwise. Of course, new windows in an old house would be even better. . .and more electrical outlets. I am not swayed so easily by modern conveniences but, I like running water and heat . I also like to work . “Quick and easy” tastes just like it sounds. I derive a sort of satisfaction when I work at something-even if I make mistakes! Just yesterday, I worked on an arrangement of cedar for quite a while. I made a garland with a lantern in the middle of it. When I placed it on the table, I tried to like it . . and at first, I almost did. I left it to work on a wreath. When I came back, I couldn’t deny it. The thing had gone from “bad to worse”. I took it apart and what a mess that was. Still, I had enjoyed working on it. Work makes me think, whether or not, I am creating something of beauty or fixing something or cleaning. It all boils down to no one enjoys a fire more than the one who gathered the wood, I think.
I love hearing the church bells ring out the hour. I love bells and chimes . . not whistles -Sometimes though, I hear the train whistle late at night. That kind of whistle, I do like. I do not understand how that whistle can sound sorrowful and joyful, at the same time!
There is so much to love wherever you go . . but I must declare that I miss the countryside. I miss the big sky and the sweet air. There, in the country, are a million stars and the brightest moons for the heavens own every bit of sky. Silvery , misty fields in the evenings and mornings are golden when you can see the sun rising There are just so many shades of light. Maybe, I will always favor this landscape, but there truly is so much to love wherever you go. I would do well to dwell on this truth .
For now, I live on a quiet street in a friendly neighborhood and everything is just five minutes away. Old trees line the streets and the moon rises in a window in the sky just above this rabbitpatch. Traffic is very light and not constant . . .and when those church bells ring . . . .well, I just love everything about the little house on Bonnet Street!
Before Such Things Happened
Lo and behold! I am writing this entry from the little rabbitpatch on Bonnet Street! Maybe next time, I will even have a picture of my small town dwelling, to prove it. The internet was connected yesterday and it even rained this morning -my favorite kind of morning to write. What used to be so familiar, now seems like a rare and precious gem, to me. We also now have natural gas -which means that we have heat and can cook on a stove. During the time, I waited for such things, a lot happened. First, the rental house got put in order. I met several neighbors, all delightful people. One neighbor, in particular resulted in a “reunion”!
Miss Linda was friendly and helpful as soon as she saw me working feverishly to bring beauty and honor to the long neglected property. We chatted a little briefly most days. One day, we took the time to have a real conversation. I asked her where she was from and as her story unfolded, certain names and circumstances lept out at me til at last, I blurted out “What is your last name?” When she told me, tears sprang to my eyes and again I shouted out, “Do you know who I am!?” As it turns out, we were neighbors, decades ago, when my children were little! I used to weave baskets for a shop she had and she was the one that gave my Jenny, the doll that Jenny always loved best, the endearing, “Lady Jane”- (which was a black rabbit in a calico dress). We both laughed and cried all at once. Thirty years had passed, but on that day, it seemed like it was only a short, while ago that we were friends and also neighbors.
Miss Linda has a food station in her yard, for anyone that needs to use it. Of course, I am glad for that and eager to help out. I have already heard of two cases that are just heartbreaking. Neither person had created the circumstances they are now in. Many folks dismiss the homeless believing always, that the poor are responsible for their destiny. I have heard all of the arguments that some folks prefer to live roaming about, or that they are dishonest and simply take advantage of tender hearted fools. Let me be very clear . . .I don’t care why or how someone ended up needing food. I do not care if someone lies about their needs. That is not my business. My business is my response. I have never been a good judge and have been as wrong as can be, often, besides. Therefore, the little food station keeps me humble and what joy it is to see, a small child grab something and run excitedly to show an elderly driver, what they found. If just one person, out of a hundred is helped . . to me that is enough.
I read a lot during “the time before such things” . I fell in to a routine of my job, then household tasks and supper and finally reading til my bedtime. Reading from a screen just does not have the same effect as reading from a book, for me. I was careful to select titles that were well written, with language chosen carefully-and artfully. I realised early on just how much interruptions of concentration have become so very normal and certainly had impacted my own ability to just think long and hard about something. Reading at night was like a long and tranquil meditation. Oh, I must be kind to myself and continue this practice!
In some way, I had another reunion with an old friend.
In the early mornings, I spend time on the porch -and again in the twilight time. In town, folks walk their dogs-something never seen in the rural community, that I came from. The boxer watches with me. He knows how to walk on a leash, for we trained him when he was young to do so, just in case. He does not pull or snatch a bit and sits automatically, if we stop walking. It is obvious, that I take pride in that loyal dog. Folks being pulled and twisted by their dog , often admire his stellar manners . . they should meet the cat.
At least “Christopher Robin” is still accounted for and even joins me on the porch, but he has been naughty, since the move to town and one day I threw an outright fit with him. The noble boxer, can barely handle a stern look, but the cat couldn’t care less about a scolding or my grim expressions, and is liable to ask for cream in the midst of our argument! It is a wonder to me, that we all adore him and are always there to serve him.
I went to Raleigh over the weekend. Ryan and I took a walk on a golden day under an azure sky. The trees were at the peak of their glory, and how lovely it was, to see. There was enough wind to rattle the trees and loosen their colorful leaves. We watched the dancing leaves. Ryan said “They can fly!” Cirrus clouds dotted the top of our world, that day. That is when Ryan said “the clouds are broken!” He remains a mild natured child and so bright, too. He is a very small little cherub and easy to dote on.
Now, on the home front, the old farmhouse has a steady flow of prospective buyers. I do not worry myself about it, as I did. There have been too many things to worry about the past two years and frankly, worry is tiresome and does not bear fruit, that I want to eat. For all I know, I might be moving back in months . . .or maybe not. Somehow, some way, I have become use to this state of quandary. I do not have a magic wand or a “kings’ ransom” or a crystal ball, therefore it may seem that I am “empty handed” . . . but I know different. I feel different about life in general and it is because of the past two years. . .Dare I say I have a new sense of “peace”? And, isn’t that the last thing you would expect?
When the Creek Rises . . Part III