“The Time of the Singing of Birds”


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It is almost April and still, we wait for tulips.  The evenings in March still warrant a blanket and frost blankets the fields of winter wheat, in the first hours, of the day.  Though dogwoods and azaleas ought to bloom for Easter Sunday, the ones  at the rabbit patch, do not seem inclined to do so this year.  .  .and Easter eggs are likely to be found amongst sticks and old leaves, instead of tufts of tender grass.  The forecast does indicate fair weather in the near future.

The gathering on Sunday, in honor of a trio of birthdays, was  a happy affair.  Daddy and Christian had a chocolate eclair cake-and Mama had bought Lyla her very own little chocolate cake.  I think we all expected Lyla to grab two handfuls of cake, at the first chance she got, but Lyla picked up a little plastic fork, and cut herself a slice, very neatly.  

Tres had to leave early, as he had to go to work that afternoon.  Jenny had a biology test-on Sunday!  (I remember when stores and restaurants too, all closed on Sunday.)  When all was cleaned up, and there was no trace a party had taken place, I came back to the rabbit patch, which now, seemed especially quiet.

Next week is spring break and so schools will close for a week.  I do hope to restore some order to the territory  around the rabbit patch, before I leave for Elizabeth City.  The place looks shabby and I blame the March winds, that have been relentless this year.  It saddens me to say, that the beloved cape jasmine bushes haven’t a sprig of green yet, so I fear that week of sub zero temperatures, may have been fatal for my favorite bushes.  The dandelions are alive and well, though. . .and so are the wild violets.

On the way to school, I sometimes follow a school bus, no matter what time I leave.  It is hardly light as I drive past fields and pastures.  This morning, the bus in front of me started its’ flashing lights in front of a house , that set a good ways back from the road.  There waiting in the driveway, in the last shadow of night, stood a tiny little boy.  Honestly, it bothered me that he was alone  . . .but then I saw that he was in good company, after all.  A dog was on either side of him.  One was a medium size and the other was a smaller one .  Both of the dogs walked the boy to the bus, and paused til he was safely aboard.  Then they turned around and pranced quite proudly back to the drive and waited til the bus pulled away, before returning to the house.   I just love dogs.

Today was mild and absent of brutal winds  It felt like the first day of spring.  I noticed the wisteria is just beginning to bloom in the woodlands.  Here and there little lavender blossoms appear to float in the woodlands, otherwise the woodlands still  portray a winter landscape.  I suspect within a week the wild wisteria vines will make their presence known and act as lovely garlands for oaks, still not convinced of the season.  The woodlands around the rabbit patch are abundant with the fragrant vines.  Wisteria is zealous and not everyone counts them beloved, because of that.  I  think of my friend “Sweet Anne”, who does battle with a wisteria in her yard every year.   (I think she is losing.) 

At last,  I think, it is safe to put the geraniums on the porch .  I washed the heaviest blankets last night, to be put away.  I even moved the warmest sweaters to the back of the closet , in good faith . . .that  “the time of the singing of birds has come” . . .and young rabbits will soon be seen in the twilight ,amongst those patches of wild violets.  

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“Happy as a Lark”


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It is the hour just after the “early service”, (which happens no matter where I am) .  . . . and I am as “happy as a lark”.  My Tres is home!  He slept under my roof and will eat at my table.   . . Moments I treasure, above most, are when the children come home.

Tomorrow is another “holiday” for my family.  We are gathering to celebrate almost recent and  in the  near future birthdays. We will honor Christian, Daddy and Lyla.  Daddy and Christian had March birthdays-and Lyla has the “in the near future” birthday.  Her third birthday is April fifth-and rest assured you will hear more about that.  

Tres and my son Brant,  both live in Wilmington, about three hours from the rabbit patch. Brant is working this weekend or else, it would be a true “homecoming’.  I did not know that Tres was coming til he called, in route.  Linens were washing and a large pot of beef and vegetable soup was  simmering within the hour of the good news.  I had come home tired after work , but the prospect of Tres’ arrival acted as a tonic on me.  I set about collecting things to be put away .  I lit the “welcome home” lantern at the back door and tied a spring pink ribbon on it, when all was done. Tres came in to a tidy house with a big pot of piping hot soup, ready to eat.

I sat for a while this morning, before breakfast, feeling quite pleased with the current state of affairs.  Later,  I felt happy to be peeling potatoes for hashbrowns and brewing coffee.  I looked forward to having a leisure breakfast with my sons, more so than I would have to a “breakfast at Tiffanys’ “. 

After breakfast, we talked.  We talked about small things and things not so small.  We talked about Lyla, and a trip Tres has planned for Montana.  He told stories about his cats, “Hank and Jolene” and I told him about a cat that  I knew thirty years ago.  If it came up, we said it, without a bit of hurry.  For a while, we abandoned the complexity of the world and told our stories.  How rare such conversations have become, I realised.  I remembered, when they were not.

Porch rockers were not so idle, once upon time- and served a purpose beyond adornment.  It baffles me, that with all of our modern conveniences, that we have less time for meandering and less time to wonder where the robin nests.  . . as the generations before us did.  Modern communication keeps us aware of catastrophes and world wide sorrows, yet we know not the plight of our next door neighbors.  We get instant answers and spend little time just being curious .  I am not denying the many advantages we are afforded today, but sometimes, it feels like we lost something, beautiful. . .

 I am as likely, as anyone to carry “the weight of the world” on my shoulders as if it were meant just for me.  It is for this very reason, that I read poetry and count butterflies-and have coffee with my sons while telling a story about a cat who stole anything not nailed down, many years ago . . .and feel “happy as lark” doing so.

 

“The Icing on My Cake”


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The drive to Elizabeth City, on Friday was a pleasant one.  The three  rivers , I  cross, were full of shining, peaceful waters and the sky above them was a friendly shade of blue.  The sunlight fell gently casting faint shadows.

Lyla was napping when I arrived.  I sat on the porch admiring the day.  I watched the “laughing river” tumbling happily by.  Moments later, Miss Claudia (Wills’ mom and my friend) came in.  Will and Jenny were going out for dinner and so Lyla had both of her grandmothers at her “beck and call”.  Things were going along nicely til Lylas’ program went off and the remote proved to be quite a challenge.  Lyla  did not take this well, which did not help at all.   Somehow, we either bought or rented a movie-we are still not sure, which happened.  It was a Christmas movie and Lyla quieted down-and so all was well, when Will and Jenny came home.

Saturday dawned and right off, I thought the sky looked suspicious.  The air was damp,and cooler than the day before. It seemed quite fitting conditions for Saint Patricks’ Day.  Jenny and I got started early, sorting through all of Lylas’ clothes.  Warm weather clothing replaced bulky coats.  Little cardigans with tulips and butterflies hung where the heavy coats used too.  The pale pink “Easter dress” was hung last.  Piles of clothes lined the walls . . .some to be returned to the friends that lent them, some to lend and some to be packed away.  We couldn’t help but wonder aloud about the baby, Jenny will have in September.

Lyla and I spent a good deal of time in the kitchen, that afternoon.  We made fifty cheese biscuits for the gathering, hosted by the “Donahues”.  If you can imagine a toddler and a five pound bag of flour, in the same vicinity, you can also imagine what sort of things unfolded in the kitchen.  The angelic sound of the “The Flower Duet”- and flour dust filled the air, creating  a heavenly look . . and I laughed aloud.  When the first batch was ready, I gave Lyla the smallest biscuit and she ate it standing in a small heap of flour, in her chair.

That night, a terrific storm descended on the  “Riverside” village .  There was thunder and lightening with heavy downpours and I was so grateful, that Will and Jenny were home “safe and sound”.  Some things never change.

On Sunday, Lyla and I watched robins and redbirds prepare for their day.  They were a busy lot for a long while.  When they flew away, Lyla wished them well and waved good bye. . . then we went back to the kitchen.  We were on another mission.

Miss Claudia had mentioned a coconut cake, on Friday night.  The “Flour Girls Bakery” had posted a picture of an elaborate coconut  cake.  Miss Claudia seemed to take quite a fancy to that picture and so I devised a plan then and there to bake a coconut cake, before I left.  In the meanwhile, Jenny decided she wanted a cheesecake. This kept Lyla and I busy  for a while.  As usual, Lyla did not like the mixing to end and complained when the batter was poured to bake.  She took some comfort that we needed to make icing, next.  When we made the cheesecake,  Lyla could not understand why it looked like a pie.

I carried Miss Thelma a few biscuits and still warm coconut cake, an hour later. She was sitting in the sun, on her porch and so we visited there. Her silver locks became her, so did her smile.   She ate a biscuit and told me she had a birthday recently and  had turned ninety four.  Miss Thelma, has a story, and I want to hear it.  

Jenny was not feeling well when I returned.  In that case, I decided to delay leaving.  It was almost six o’clock, when I thought to ask the time.  I was alarmed and worried about having to drive in the dark.  I had everything loaded in the car, or else, I may would have spent the night.  I needed to take Miss Claudia her cake and I needed gas, too.  I left hurriedly and Miss Claudia met me at the door.  (She knows I do not like to drive at night.)  Without ceremony, I handed her the cake but Miss Claudia had something for me too.  She had made a beautiful spring wreath and gave it to me.  I was so touched, I wanted to cry.  It was perfect for a “rabbit patch”-colorful and whimsical . . . What a cheerful wreath!  Now, that was the “icing on my cake”.

As it turns out, I made it home by twilight.  I called Jenny to let her know.  She was eating cheesecake, but said Lyla would not try one bite. (Lyla loves cake?)  Jenny asked her why and Lyla said . . . “I can’t eat pie-because Peters’ daddy was put in a pie, by Mrs. McGregor!” 

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Happy Spring!

 

March 15th, 1935


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Today is no ordinary day at the rabbit patch-today is my fathers’  eighty third birthday.  People like to brag on their family, and I am no different. . .but believe me, I have every right to.  There is no need to exaggerate as the truth is sufficient and proves my point, that I come from nobility. He was born on March 15th, 1935.

Daddy grew up on “back roads.”  Money was scarce, which meant food and clothing were too.  His father was loved by all and handsome, but terribly undependable as a father.  Daddy does not hold it against him, and so I do not either. . .still this left it all up to Grandmama to raise her four children -and she did .  There were no government programs in those days and Grandmama did not not drive.  Somehow, she raised four children, and everyone of them are honorable people. Daddy has an older brother, a younger sister and a younger brother.  

He walked to school and carried his shoes,, so as not to wear them out.  Even as a young child, he worked on the farm performing tasks like a grown man. He made good grades in school and in high school, was urged to go to college and become a writer.  That was never an option for a very poor country boy.  Instead, he joined the army.  He excelled in sharp shooting and somehow mechanics, becoming a helicopter mechanic that tended the helicopters for President Eisenhower . I suppose hunting rabbits and keeping old tractors running paid off in the long run.

Daddy had high expectations for his children.  We were expected to be courteous and respectful.  We were to do our best in school. We learned to work and not to be wasteful . . .and we always had well made shoes.  He was a strict father and needless to say, saved me from a lot of foolishness when I was a teenager.  Daddy was dependable. . . and still is. 

I have a notebook, that I record the details of Daddys’ life in.  The collection of memories make me cry and yet fill my heart with pride, a few pages later.  

Next week, the family will gather to celebrate Daddy and Christians’ birthdays.  Today, my sister, Connie took him out to eat and treated him to a shopping trip.  I stopped by after work with a gift and treats.  

Of all the blessings this life affords, a loving family certainly trumps most.  Parents  teach us, care for us and sacrifice til it becomes habit.  My daddy has done all of that for me.  . .but above and beyond that, the “sermon he wears in his shoes” has been a mighty force in my life.  Throughout my childhood, Daddy helped me catch glimpses of  the Father by the way he lived -and the way he loved.  He took away some of the mystery of  the “Heavenly Father” day by day-and of all the things Daddy gave me . . .that has made the difference. 

Who  knew, that  deep inside, a poor little boy  walking on a back road, carrying his shoes-and probably hungry, lay the heart of a warrior? . . .a mind intelligent enough to overcome  the odds?  Who would have known, they were looking in the face of nobility ?  

Happy Birthday, Daddy! 

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Snow, Wind and a “Drop of Irish Blood”


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Last night, it snowed at the rabbit patch.  It was merely a dusting, but schools had a two hour delay on account of it.  A cold wind blew producing cracking and rattling noises, making me curious .  Peering out, did little good as it was pitch dark.  Today, what blossoms are left on the peach and pear trees are dingy and the sycamores dropped a few more branches.  Even so, the day faired off with bright sunshine, but the wind remained steady and gusted all day,  as is proper March weather.  The next two nights are expected to be below freezing, and so I will tend a small fire each night.  Soon enough, the luxury of gazing at a cheerful fire and thinking of nothing in particular will not be afforded, for country dwellers. 

Some day, the fierce wind will be tamed into a gentle breeze and we will all face the aftermath of winter.  Small fires will be lit in barren gardens to burn the many gathered branches. . .and we will all pray that the mower starts back up.  We will disturb young rabbits and find wild violets as we tidy up . . . and take notice where the songbirds are building their nests.  Such things await . . .but today the wind blows wildly and without a bit of mercy. . .and  so, to sit by a small fire is of great comfort.

This is also ideal circumstances to bake bread.  Having a great, great grandfather named Henderson McDuffy O’Leary, and “St. Patricks’ Day but a few days away, I made Irish soda bread tonight.  The bread paired well with the chili we had for supper, and it was good practice- as Jenny and I are to bake bread for the gathering on Saturday.  

I started dabbling in genealogy, while my  paternal grandmother was still alive. She was a tremendous help and filled in stories that official records could not.  She remembered her grandfather as  ” kind and jolly “.  It must have run in the family for the same could have been said about her.  Grandmama showed me where her grandfather was buried at a little church in the “Hollyneck” community just an hour from the rabbit patch.  I still remember that day.  There was an ancient oak tree that shaded his grave. Grandmama and I stood there a good while.  Years later, I found Hendersons’ brothers’ grave in a family cemetery , at the edge of a field just a few miles away.  I cried at the sight of it.  I had looked for it for so long.  Kyle and Christian were quite young and were tired of traipsing through the country that day.  When we located Uncle Enochs’ grave, they ran to collect wild flowers from the ditch to place on it.

Though, both brothers had settled in the south, they fought with the Union in the civil war.  Uncle Enoch was a captain, and his grave was marked with a Union stone, as proof.  Both brothers survived the war, and lived many years afterwards.

  Many of my ancestors were writers and musicians.  No one ever earned a living by these things, but one did publish songs she had written.   We embrace our Irish heritage on any given day.  Just a “drop of Irish blood”  and yet, we are especially apt to brag about it on the holiday.   I do not know why we think we can lord  the facts over anyone . . .for we all know that  . . . “Everyone is Irish, on St. Patricks, Day!” 

While the Trees Do Not Yet, Keep Secrets


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Night lifted and the day was born-that is how the “morning service” went today.  It was a silent affair, without a lot of fanfare-unless you take in to account, that a new day was born, and with it the chance to live it, to love more deeply and hopefully to understand something more.  

I grumble every year over the “changing of the clocks”, so as is my habit, I will do so again.  My regular readers know, I do not like clocks, in general.  In fact, I realised again today, that every clock in my house is wrong anyway, save the computer and cell phone.  The coffee maker and the stove flash out 12:00 in red light, yet that does not stir me.  The one chiming clock, says it is 12:00 too, as it has needed batteries for more than a year.  I suppose I will not waste moments changing the clocks.

   In the summer, time is irrelevant and somehow, I survive.  I guess, it all started when I was growing up on the farm.  The clock did not wake me -the smell of coffee and breakfast did.  The sound of rain meant, not to rush. The sound of a tractor, meant to hurry.  The sun felt hot by mid morning and we were hungry by “dinner time” roughly noon.  The school said I had to learn to tell time, with plastic clocks.  I remember feeling quite “grown up” when my parents gave me a watch, . . but it promptly became a bracelet.  Dogs know what time it is without such contraptions.  Cash is always on alert, when I drive up.  He and Christopher Robin (my cat) are always sitting side by side looking in the direction, I drive in from.  Somehow, they know when it is Saturday too.  They sleep later and accept breakfast later-but on week days they are up and whining as if they are starving.  I suspect they fear I will leave without feeding them- and it will be a long time til “a clock” says I can come home.  

Jenny called this morning to tell me about Lylas’ latest dream.  We have both, always encouraged Lyla to tell us about her dreams ,when she first wakes up.  Jenny asked Lyla today, if she had sweet dreams and Lyla said “No!”  Lyla went on to say, that she had taken a yellow letter from Mother Goose and then lost it.  Mother Goose was angry and pinched her.  Jenny told Lyla it was just a dream-and Lyla replied “well, that pinch hurt- and that goose is angry.”  Lyla is not yet three. 

Because birthdays are more than a day, at the rabbit patch, I fixed pancakes for breakfast.  Yesterday, Christian wanted cheese biscuits.  I also put on a pot of navy beans for tonight and a pot of chicken and quinoa soup.  Kyle is not likely to touch the quinoa, so I added mushrooms too, as Kyle will not eat those either.  The weather is cool and gray, so conditions are good for cooking such things.  While, the pots simmer, I am scrubbing the kitchen floor and cabinets-and listening to a sermon.  Whatever time it is, I am making good use of the hour.  

Wouldn’t you know the sermon was about dreams?  And . . wouldn’t you know I knocked that chiming clock off the wall, as I was cleaning?  It is a big, heavy clock and the only one I really like.  The chimes are low and soothing . . so I scrambled to catch it-and I did -with my shin.  I had to laugh, in spite of the aching shin.  I think the clock deserves a battery. ..and I ought to stop complaining.

The light was too weak, to cast even the faintest shadow all day.  I spent the whole day cleaning and somehow I came up with another box of items to donate.  I plan to put the house back on the market soon and there is so  much to do to prepare for that.  I am not going to even attempt cleaning the territory until the winds of  March subside.  

I have noticed patches of green grass here and there, in the yard, and every morning, a small flock of robins can be found in the herb garden. The remnants of winter are clearly upon us. 

Sometime, in April, the wisteria will act as a garland for every willing tree in the young woods and the scent of wild honeysuckle will be thick in the air.  Until then, I will celebrate the last days of winter . . .when the trees do not  yet keep secrets and wild violets lie just beneath the soil.   . .for no matter how I measure time, it always seems to slip away dreadfully fast.

Our Song for the Fifth Child


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The following story was written, not long after Christian was born-now twenty-five years ago.  Do not let the term “fairy” fool you, for this is a true story.  I was there and this is my account.

 

Not long ago, there lived a mother, who had four little fairy children.

One morning in March, a miracle happened- for this mother was given another.

Her four fairy children searched through the land, for the finest things it  did offer- Each wanted a gift, reflecting the love, they felt for new fairy brother.

When each little fairy had finished their quest. they said to the child and their mother,

“We come in thanksgiving, to celebrate life, and bearing gifts for our littlest brother.”

The first fairy was a boy child, whose spirit was fire the fire was the gift that he gave. . .and a strength without fear, he gave the small dear-                                              so to run in the woods, and dance in June showers-                                                                  may you ramble in woodlands in freedom for hours-                                                            stopping only to climb the tree, nearest the sun                                                                        and to race with the deer, just for the fun.

“Live well with this spirit of fire” he said, and it was then, that the new fairy smiled.

The only girl fairy had eyes warm and enchanting, so that sunflowers grew, wherever she glanced.  . . and and so that was the gift that she gave-

“One must look to see beauty. so my gift to you, is a kindness in which to see the world through.                                                                                                                                      May you gaze at creation, with patient eyes, not missing the splendor of winter night skies-                                                                                                                                              nor whisper pink roses, nor emerald grasses-                                                                            may you notice the grandeur of each day that passes.”

Again the little babe smiled.

The next fairy brother, so carefully chose, the gift he intended for the child, that he loved. . .and that was the gift, that he gave.

“May your reason, be just-and careful-and true,                                                                        guided by the wisdom, of those before you.                                                                              Might you take time to wonder, at all that you see,                                                                and then to imagine, what more there might be-                                                                      always consider, what else there may be.”

Then, the new fairy child smiled, once again.

The last fairy child nearly sang out his gift.  His voice was a small one and filled with good cheer, and that was the gift that he gave.

“I give to you happiness, I give to you glee!                                                                                  We will laugh together, you and me!                                                                                              Celebrate joy, as we do your birth-                                                                                                  and may you enjoy a lifetime of mirth!”

It was then the new fairy child giggled.

The mother of these fairies, had thought long of a gift, as she wasn’t a fairy as they.  And now at long last, this mother of fairies knew just what she wanted to say.

“The gifts you dear fairies, have bestowed on your brother are certainly some of the best,                                                                                                                                                          but I have a gift too,that I know in my heart, will be treasured as much as the rest.”

The mother then gathered all of her children, her eyes began to brim, and said-

“The gift that I give to my youngest son, is the four little fairies before him.”

And then the new fairy child laughed . . .and  the heavens joined in the laughter-        and the mother of  fairies,and all of her children to this day, live “happily after”.   

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