Before I write about a wonderful night I never wish to forget, I apologize for not blogging here. Quora, Medium and my book edit have kept me busy, along with other irons in the fire. I promise to post here twice a month going forward. Ready?
I had the perfect July 4th (a day early, but who’s keeping track?) evening with the person I love more than any other I’ve ever met. We perched on the chairs overlooking the creek that is a small trickle, devoured brats (think large hot dogs) and sipped minty mojitos from icy glasses. We laughed about life, watched as the sun swung herself over the edge of the trees and noticed hundreds of lightning bugs playing in the darkened woods.
We had a second round of my new favorite drink, and I idly watched as the thumbnail crescent moon made her own early descent. My husband had brought out a speaker, and as we listened to Ohioans enjoying the new law opening up the use of fireworks, we took turns choosing songs. We started singing through Ed Sheeran and Chris Stapleton, made our way to some duets, and then we had ourselves a dance party.
The sweltering heat dissipated as the coolness from the woods surrounding our home crept up the hill and found its way into our laps, so the night begged for dancing. As we tried to dance the way we did in the 80s, we laughed, showed off to no one other than some scared deer at most, and we acted like college kids at a bar.
Since we first met, officially, at a dance bar in college, our lives have included dancing at various points. We took ballroom, and we only remember the waltz now; we cranked Nirvana and jumped around the living room with our small daughters. James Taylor entered our world as our son was born, so he would swing to Sweet Baby James. The Foo Fighters, Eagles, and even EDM have compelled us to dance.
I think tonight will be tucked away carefully in my mind. The stars gleamed above and while at times so many different people were enjoying their fireworks, we laughed about it sounding like a night of shooting. It felt like the old Wild West or a Western film. The night full of booms and the skittering bangs of multiple small firecrackers set the stage for us to abandon our normally quiet selves and enjoy one another amid music.
Sipping the cooling mint and rum for a quick moment between singing and dancing took me back to when I first met this man. He’s remarkably lithe and nimble for a guy who lifts weights regularly and is 6′ 2″. I imagine I look like I’ve been struck over the head a few too many times as I jump, twirl, swing my arms wildly, and even use some tai chi movements to add to the laughter. Suffice to say we would never do this in public, but we don’t care overmuch what the raccoons, deer, foxes, turtles, owls and bullfrogs think about our sweet moves.
As the tree cuddled the slip of a moon and sent it to sleep, we would sit and sing to the night, hoping our neighbors didn’t mind. I did sing in another life, and at one time I almost left high school to head to NYC and try my luck in theater. Thankfully I made the decision to let my friend head there alone, or I wouldn’t have met my soul mate. The man who has my back and more. The only person on the planet who has seen me as I am at all times. Weird, funny, loving music, missing playing (tune that piano is perpetually on my to-do list) and dancing with a man who freaky dances when needed.
My mind flew out to the time when our whole family sat on the back porch drinking whiskey and singing to Foreigner. I had no idea my kids liked that music, but they adore the 80s and wish they had lived through it. Concerts were cheap, and all I had to do was skip physics class to leave with my friends and buy tickets to Genesis, Devo, the Cars, or Elvis (Costello).
Or the time in the car when my husband and I had just belted out, Hello, by Adele, only to have my son follow that by singing in a perfect falsetto, some song I never knew, but it was fast with words spilling out of his mouth at a rapid rate. His sisters, judging by their laughter, had no idea little brother could sing. Or at least cover a song by a woman that was so sky-high.
But tonight was for me and my guy, and we needed this. The sound of continual shootings (fireworks courtesy of teens everywhere), starlight, mojitos, and music. And laughter.
I hope you find yourself on a July evening full of fireflies, moonlight, and music someday with a person you love more than life. And that you dance.
I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold… – Deanna Eppers
Freezing cold air numbs my fingers, and I finally donned some soft gloves today. I thought the bright sun beckoned me outdoors, but the cheery skies laughed at the shock I felt when winter’s winds buffeted me while I stood outside in just my sweatpants and sweatshirt. My cat braved the bright cold to watch the deer as they made their way down to the partially frozen creek, but my cat wears fur. Since fur isn’t “in” these days, I decided to wander back inside. I stood on the back deck long enough to feel my lungs and throat seared by the frigid air. I gave up far more quickly than my heat-loving cat.
Winter’s cold has a way of ushering me indoors. I’m thrilled to find myself at the end of the day next to a roaring fire and yelling out wrong answers to Jeopardy, or binge watching a show. Which isn’t truly a binge, since my husband can sit for two episodes at most. Then we listen to vintage music or shove our noses in books. I’d like to think I pair a glass of wine with the wending way of words in my pile of novels, but the reality of wasted calories factors in. Chocolate and cream in my coffee matter more.
How do those of us who dwell within reach of winter’s embrace find happiness in the endless sullen clouds, the snows that fall and must be shoveled again, and where a run outdoors is almost considered dangerous? Look to the Swedes. They live in months of darkness, with cold seeping into their veins, and they’re happy. Swedes commit to the cold and practice a form of coziness, hygge. It’s the latest in loving winter, but they’re truly onto something.
When I lived in upstate New York the snows sometimes came up over my head, and we shoveled down our cereal just to be out in the glittering sunlight to build a fort. When my parents moved back there during my university years, I bought some skis and went skiing. My family decided to join me on these forays into powder and moguls, where all we worried about was shoving off of the ski lift without falling down. I went cross country skiing with a friend, and when we figured out that we had taken the wrong trail, or maybe it wasn’t a trail at all, we laughed so hard at our novice skiing efforts on the nonexistent trail.
We had to ford a swollen creek in those long skis. My friend and I finally abandoned our skis and hoofed it back to the chalet to hand in our rented equipment. My boyfriend (now husband) took the cross country skis out one dark night where the shy stars peeked out between the clouds as they passed. Looking up we marveled at the wonder of dark skies, bright new snow, and quiet, almost holy moments.
Winter is jolly, rushed, and full of celebrations in December, so the real test of our mettle comes in the long months that follow. My inclinations these days is to stay tucked up in a cocoon of soft blankets, with scalding hot coffee at hand, and burrow in deep as I sit by the fire. But winter has a magic that begs to be discovered by us. The Swedes make a point of going outdoors to collect items from nature such as rocks, feathers, sticks or moss to bring inside and use as decor. They also light up the darkness with bright white lights in windows and in the house.
If we took a cue from the people who enjoy winter and remain happy despite the cold and dark, we can hold onto ribbons of bliss.
Tonight I read about a challenge where a person commits to hiking at least one mile fifty-two times in one year. I have to ask my husband if he’d like to join my on a hike every week, and we’d have to start this week since we’re behind already, but what a unique way to get people out of their homes on dull winter days. Soon enough we’ll be posting about walks in the rain and hikes in the steamy hot days that refuse to release their heat. For now, though, this hiking challenge sounds like something the Swedes would try, and I’ll throw in searching for a beautiful pine cone.
Our bodies were made to move. After a day or night of work the last thing most of us want to do is head out for a walk. Plus the older you are, the easier it is to fall into the habit of hibernating. There are no kid’s basketball games to see, no swimming lessons to attend, and no book club due to covid. Listlessness is easy. Complacency looks alluring, but playing cribbage while drinking herbal tea or a wee dram of whiskey is better than relentless, mindless shows on tv.
I think we’ll feel better if we do commit to braving the cold and embracing it.
When I lived in very cold Wisconsin, I watched the frost crawl up my bedroom wall in horror. The temperature hovered at -25 degrees. That cold welcomed us in our first year of Wisconsin living, but we adapted to the frozen months and accepted them.
My husband and I both took up running, since we were too poor to join a gym, and we’d run in almost any weather. I did take a nice four-miler in a blizzard, and my husband would run in every cold possible. Nothing daunted him, though -10 stared my in the face, and I backed down. The main point is changing our perspective and our position. Join in and skate outdoors, make snow angels, shovel a neighbor’s driveway. Find a leaf or feather to bring indoors to your winter collection.
The people I met when I lived in Wisconsin were friendly and hardy. One soul-chilling Saturday evening when the thermometer hovered at another night of -25, I asked my roommates what we were going to do since walking over a mile to the bars wasn’t going to happen. They looked at me as if I had sprung antlers out of the sides of my head! They were going to walk downtown fortified by some strong liquor and heavy coats; staying in would never be an option, so I dressed cute (no heels, because it was too cold for that at least) like Madonna, guzzled some scorching liquor that drew heat into my chest and head out for a long walk in the gloom of yet another dreary night with no starlight.
Just being out in that awful penetrating cold with my funny friends made me realize attitude is everything. We laughed our way downtown and made our way into our bar, since most students had a certain bar they hung out in for most of the night. We chucked our parkas at the door and sure enough the place was packed with all our friends. Nobody in Wisconsin is afraid of the cold, and they celebrate almost anything to bring light and laughter to a long season of frozen days.
I’m not advocating swilling down shots of booze as a way to lighten your mood. Those days are behind me, and I didn’t guzzle, even when my roomies did. I usually ordered a dry martini and nursed the drink for an hour or so, hoping some guy would buy the next one. Hey, I didn’t have much spending money!
The point is we can choose to like winter or hate every single day of this season, but what good is that? My friend laments the cold here, which isn’t honestly that cold, and she talks about moving to Fiji. I just discovered she wears a battery-operated coat that heats her coat up nicely, so in my eyes she is set. I could have used that heater in my coat when I’d leave the school library at midnight, but there’s something about bravery that lifts the spirits.
Staring down the dark and cold take courage of a certain sort. If we balanced our weeks to include hikes on a trail or around our city, if we huddle under our softest blanket, if we sip hot tea and read the words of a book that delights us, then we’ll be happy. Make your home, your space, a place of warmth, even if it is from a space heater. Place a pile of magazines or books next to your sofa or bed and luxuriate in words.
I know this is crazy long, but this is one last tidbit I wanted to share with you. In Germany one day I stayed in my hotel room, because I wasn’t feeling so great. I placed a Do Not Disturb hanger on my doorknob, and the cleaners still came in. They cleaned around me in my bed, and they opened up a window even though the day was brisk. Germans like to open up the windows in their houses and apartments once a month, no matter what, to freshen up their homes. I understand that. Even winter air is fresh and clean with a scent no other season possesses. Open your window. Just a crack or so. Grow used to fresh air, and don’t be afraid of the cold. Enjoy it.
I hope you look up and memorize one constellation that isn’t the Big Dipper or Orion. Winter brings very dark nights just ripe for spotting planets and stars. I’ll be looking up. I hope you do, too.
I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold.
A house is never silent. Not truly. They creak and settle their bones, the plumbing makes odd noises at strange times, and sometimes my fireplace carries the sound of the winds outdoors. It’s a hollow, lonely moan, and my cat raises his head to see if I’m alarmed. I’ll admit at times I love the quiet, and I feel blessed to barely catch the low rumbling of the trains that pass late only on certain nights. When crickets and tree frogs fill the night with music, I don’t feel slightly scared or alone. Those summer nights are a friend to me, and I lit my candles, drank tea and wrote or read long past midnight. Even a quiet windy night doesn’t usually unnerve me, except last night it did.
Last night felt different. This December night offered no snow flying peacefully through the dark. It told a story of tornado watches, and I had to turn off the fire as the room grew too warm. Alone in the house, I opened the back door rather tentatively and felt a rush of warmth, and my face felt kissed by the wet. The whole back porch had been soaked by the first round of storms, and I didn’t like the idea of falling asleep to a storm full of wind; so I stayed up long into the strange night and waited.
I lit two candles just in case the house plunged into darkness and listened. The winds rushed and moaned in the fireplace, occasionally rattling for good measure, while outside the leafless trees blew and shook, and the creek sounded close. We are perched on a cliff above the creek, but last night I couldn’t see how high it had risen, except for the sound. The water ran past the house, and I’ve never heard it do this. A neighbor on the other side of the creek stayed up long past their bedtime, too. Waiting. Watching as best we could.
Even now the wind is high, and I can finally see the water below. It looks like a wide river pouring itself over the rocks and falls, and daylight brings a reassurance that night fails to offer at times. I know about the terrible storms that hit south of here, and I wonder when this part of the world will lapse into winter’s stillness. Where are the snows with the puckering breezes that tug at our coats as we bravely shovel our sidewalks in unison with our neighbors?
Last night made me think of spring, but my Christmas tree is trimmed, finally, and a magnolia garland graces one of the mantles, so a fire looks perfect and feels good most evenings; and I think it’s time for snowmen, singing Christmas carols and indulging in the culinary delights my friends hand me. I’ve never thought of winter as my season, but I’m beginning to realize the beauty of the solitude of a cold, winter’s afternoon hike. Walking at night while gazing at the strings of lights draped across yards and houses seems magical, and I wonder when silent snows will finally fall here.
Isn’t this the time of the year when we truly recall our childhood? Christmases filled with grandparents, cousins and aunt and uncles who liked to kiss me hello, while all I wanted was to open the candy jar and escape their questions about school and my height. The house had a nativity scene under the tree, and cookies were made every afternoon; but the snows of long ago are etched in my mind forever. Christmas snows two feet deep that made us rush out into the world and create forts, houses and villages.
In the days preceding Christmas the aunties told us to get out of the house and outside, so we did. The whisper of smoke meant a fire had been kindled in the fireplace that promised warmth for later. We had serious sledding to enjoy, and the house felt crowded at times, so of course we were encouraged to head outside. Why is it that twenty people would stay in one house with just a single bathroom and three bedrooms? That house at Christmas was never silent. Someone was always getting up, and all of us sleeping on the floor often heard it or felt it.
Is that why my silent house feels luxurious to me? This one small pleasure of having a whole night spread out before me isn’t empty. It’s full of promise, and the joy is in knowing I can while away the evening doing whatever I choose. I’ll read, nibble on a mint brownie Jeannine made and gaze at my Christmas tree. So many days are full of cares and busyness that this night feels special and almost sacred. The threat of bad storms troubled me more than usual last night, and the lightning didn’t feel cozy like it did in August.
Today I’m back to normal, and my Kentucky-loving husband is almost home, which means football games on the television. I’m ready for music and laughter, and I’m in the middle of placing a village underneath one special tree upstairs. I haven’t used the village for years, and my mother is the one who gifted me with the lit up houses and buildings. I decided it’s time to enjoy all the Christmas my mother bestowed on me, knowingly or not. I listen to the songs we sang together, and I bake the same cookies we did long ago in her kitchen.
The time for silence is gone, and now night is stealing the day. I have to light the trees mom gave me, along with the huge nativity scene from my mother-in-law. I’m ready for the sound of people again, but I’m also ready for the stillness of a world cloaked in white. No storms, no high winds and no worries. Just a peaceful sky full of stars after a wonderful snow. Since we moved a bit further south, we don’t enjoy the deep snows of the north, but I like the way our city shuts down if two inches falls. The world is silent for a few precious hours as the snow falls, and the sounds of the neighbors going about the business of clearing their driveways hasn’t yet begun.
My wish is for a winter wonderland, but if I don’t receive that gift this year, then I hope to sit beside the fire, gazing at the lights on the tree and listen to this house. The storms are gone, the wind is dying, and I’m back to hearing just my house settle down for the night. Tonight will bring a measure of peace, and since the cold has decided to return, the back door is firmly shut. I only have to turn on the fire and decide on dinner. We’re almost at the darkest and longest night of the year, and I like the thought of the sun slowly adding minutes to our daylight. I’ll light a candle and wait as I listen for the sound of the garage door opening.
I’ve had enough silence for now, and I’m ready for meaningful noise. Happy conversations and hopefully a cozy Christmas movie.
I hope you have moments of beautiful silence in your days and nights. And I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold.
We’ve been in a state of suspended summer long into the autumn season. While the days aren’t as hot, the nights bring humidity without many cooling breaths of fresh fall air. The trees grow restless, as they sense the sun spending fewer hours in the sky; but confusedly they reach out to the fooling warmth that hasn’t given way to the whims of a new season. I heard the rasp of the leaves as they dry, and I’m waiting for them to give assent to change from a dull dark green into yellow, orange, russet, red and vermillion.
Tonight I decided to take a walk close to home, because rain is expected. When I started out the sounds of summer filled the evening, with the tree frogs and crickets singing lustily. If I didn’t see the dry, dusty leaves that have fallen in surrender to the ground, I would have thought it was an August night. Lightning flashed to the south, and I silently lifted a prayer that we would be beneficiaries of a good thunderstorm.
I love storms. I love my new home, but I can’t see northwest where most of the weather begins here; so I walked and watched the sky. Thunder made menacing noises in the distance, but I forgot about that when I came up on six deer. Our neighborhood deer are quite tame, and I made sure to stay on the other side of the road while they watched me pass. These are the same deer who think I have mums in planters on my front steps just for their snacking pleasure.
Tonight they stood in someone else’s yard and munched on their flowers, but I didn’t want to shoo them away. After I passed them I turned a corner and the breeze blew gusts from the east. It smelled like rain, and as the wind blew my hair back I remembered many nights spent walking in other times and places. A rain scented breeze in the warm night made me think of nights walking with the first boy I really liked. Then it switched to other times spent laughing and sharing secrets with my best friend, to college days and time spent walking home from the library thinking about a cute guy I really liked.
That guy was in our home sleeping while I took a midnight stroll. Stealing away while the neighbors were all settled down for the night or falling asleep or making lunches for tomorrow felt like a guilty pleasure. My own children live elsewhere, so I’m free to choose my hours; and I want to enjoy the mornings, but night has held an allure for me my whole life. I’m almost resigned to joining those brave night owls who come alive in the afternoon and while away the hours after midnight content and pleased.
Tomorrow is supposed to bring us plenty of rain, but a warm front is coming through. I idly wonder if I’ll find a sunny day on which to take photos of the fields and forests while they cloak themselves in their true hues. Until then I’ll burn my autumn candles, and I found the most decadent garland for the family room mantle. The colors are muted, but then that’s what this season brings us most of the time.
When I lived in New York and Wisconsin it seemed like all the trees turned at the same time. Everywhere I looked I saw red and orange leaves lit from within with a golden light. I’ve never seen anything like the parade of trees standing sentinel where they were planted almost a hundred years ago, and for a suspenseful two weeks those trees felt magical; from a story of places and times long past. The magic was never lost on me. I miss those two glorious weeks.
Here in a transitional zone we have two autumns. One is in October where certain bushes and trees decide to change colors and fall to the ground, while others stay green long into November. This patchy autumn is accepted, but I hope to convince my husband to head up to Vermont one October. He’s busy this time of year getting the farm and cabin ready for all the hunters who will converge on our land next month, so I won’t spirit him away this year. Besides, I’m spending a week at the cabin to finally finish the edits on my first book. It’s time. Book number two is firmly in my mind.
I have a strange bucket list. I don’t want to travel the world, though when I go overseas I’m so pleased to be there. No, I want to rake the crispy, dead leaves into a huge pile and try burning it like they did so long ago. It’s foolishness, I know. I want to take wild walks in cemeteries with my husband the way we did before kids were a part of our lives. I’m going to carve one pumpkin and roast the seeds, while I listen to rock and country music and sing along.
This feels too long for a story. Maybe next time.
I’m ready for the full moon of this month. The nights begin earlier every evening, and I crave comfort food. Football is back, and I’m so used to it that I turn on Monday Night football just for the nostalgic sounds of my childhood.
I write and read and remember colder days under sullen grey skies. Pulling my red wagon back to my house, where mom cooked chili; and the steamy kitchen needed an open window. That was the first time I realized I didn’t like grey days. Dad watched yet another football game, and even if I could change the channel we only had two others to choose from. Was I going to watch a bad western movie? Hardly.
Upstate New York required embracing the snow, but a grey sky on a lonely Sunday? I felt it, and watched my spirit rise as I entered my home with my mom and dad and siblings. Outside might have felt cold and windy with my friends tucked into their snug homes, but I learned how to embrace where I lived. Yes, I like being south more, but I need the seasons. Being in northern Kentucky or very southern Ohio gives us seasons, though we do have weeks where the sun hides behind dark, sodden clouds. But each season brings many gifts, and we find them if we dare to look.
Wherever you are I hope you can walk under trees and watch them. Listen for the acorns that drop from oak trees. Watch the squirrels hide them away, while deer greedily stake their claim over those tasty nuts. (At least they’re not chomping away at my mums.) Go on a hayride at a local pumpkin patch. Grab your family and be scared at a haunted corn maze. Drink some fresh apple cider. While you’re at it grab a caramel apple, too. Stay home on Halloween and hand out candy to the kids. Have fun looking at all their costumes. We hand out candy and whisky (adults only), and I’m hoping for a nice night where neighbors all sit outside and call to one another.
While I wait for autumn to resume, I’ll be going to another pumpkin farm. I suppose I’ll give in and buy some pumpkins for the deer. I leave them in the yard by the trees, and they love to crunch on fresh pumpkin. Maybe my mums will be safer that way. All I know is I’m looking forward to cold mornings where the frost nearly touches my toes, and afternoons that are full of golden sunshine that warms me through. At dinner it’s time to wrap a sweater around my shoulders, as the evening gives way to night. I think I’m ready for the change to happen. Are you?
Let’s grab every moment autumn offers. Find a way to be outside. Go to a park, nature preserve, your yard, or a woods near you. Even driving brings us new places to walk and admire. Happiness hides in the corners. We just have to find it for ourselves. Grab onto a prefect autumn day. Maybe call off work, and look up. These trees have to change colors sometime, so why not make a day of it? Press the most beautiful leaves in a book to look at in winter. Chase autumn. Have fun.
I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…
My daughter just told me September is my favorite month…
What is your favorite month? You can only choose only one of the twelve available, and I’d love it if you’d leave your fave in the comments. It matters to me, because I thought I liked July best, simply because it’s my birthday month and summer. I’ve liked July since I knew there was a July. Who doesn’t love summer? Except I’m not in school anymore, and my last child is in his last year of college. I don’t have to go by the start of the school year ever again to determine what season it is. Fall can begin on September 1st or even the 22nd (as it does officially), and I can choose which one based on my mood.
Which means my daughter is probably right. As I write this I hear how dry the leaves have become as they bend in the light breeze of autumn. To enjoy autumn you have to like messes. The leaves that are starting to fall are rather untidy, and they choose where to land. We have no say over that, and I used to loathe how mussed my yard and gardens looked each September and October.
But now? Living further south means the leaves don’t all tumble down until November, which makes for three full months of uncoordinated leaves piling up on the ground. I like the husky sound of the leaves that move restlessly waiting for their turn to fly. The crickets and tree frogs have no idea they’re days are running out, so stepping outside at night is a wild summer pleasure; if I play pretend. It sounds like summer, except for those relentless leaves and the dry corn that movesand rustles.
Do you look at the sky much? The blue is back, since the brassy bold hues have retreated; and it’s delightful to see wisps of cirrus clouds scurrying across the clearest blue skies we’ve seen in months. Sure, my neighbors are starting to stockpile pumpkins and mums interspersed with the occasional corn stalks or hay bales. I’m giving in too, except my Boston ferns went wild this summer, and they are huge! I’m such a proud plant mama that I cannot bear to toss them aside to make room for autumn’s decor of the largest mums I can pick up. Are you ready for the change? Are you looking forward to this next season?
I asked my husband, since I like input from others. He said he loves autumn (but his birthday is in October, and I still stand by my assertion that we all love our birthday month), but he added that autumn is tinged with some sadness; because winter follows next. We talked about winter, which can bring dreary, cloudy skies for weeks on end. But If we can enjoy where we are in that moment with no thought of where we are headed; then I think we can find contentment and peace.
September is my favorite month now. My daughter is right. I can be outdoors without sweating, and that makes painting or gardening pleasant. Going for a walk means fresh, cooler air; so I don’t feel like I’m walking inside a sauna. I used to feel sad at the loss of leaves on the trees, but my mother-in-law taught me to appreciate the bare trees, so we can see the sky in all its beauty. Look up this month. At night or at sunset, which looks mystical to me. Even the sun in its zenith feels pleasant in this month of honking geese, dusty leaves and nights with some cold sneaking in the back door that I like to keep open.
If we accept the beauty of today, and if we purposefully look for it; then I think we’ll find a slice of happiness. Take a book outside, or walk and listen to the outdoors talking to itself. Drop that podcast and listen for the heart of autumn. Lose yourself in the river laughing as it tumbles over rocks. Wait for the frost to arrive by donning a blanket and sitting outside and admire the last of summer’s flowers. No fire is needed, though you can enjoy it’s warmth as we sink deeper into the season. Find a park or go camping. Stay at a cabin. Take a drive and get out to walk the trails.
Embrace September and the month of full moons and trick-or-treats that will soon follow. Sometimes I think getting away from the comfort of our space and spending time among trees, ponds, wild grass, and trails is the best way to destress. We need that now more than ever, so take care of yourself and find your spot. You just might find out how much you like the autumn months, too. I’m not even asking you to read a book or drink warmed apple cider or a pumpkin spice anything. Just listen to the sounds of September wherever you live, and you’ll come inside feeling a lot better.
I almost forgot to tell a story. This goes back decades ago to our first tiny home in the city in Wisconsin. Our elderly neighbor across the street had the best lawn I’ve ever seen. Green, lush, full and thick. He babied his grass, and when all we had was a small patch of yard in the front and back it was easy to become obsessed with that small space. He mowed it lovingly, making patterns that would make most golf courses green with envy. But Mr. Huley did not have a single tree in his yard. None. His neighbors did off to one side, so if the wind blew from the north, old Mr. Huley would have leaves on his beautiful grass. He’d run outside to pick those leaves off his yard, and he never stopped running outside to remove a leaf. Ever.
One week my parents came for a visit, and my dad watched my old neighbor carefully plucking up the errant autumn leaves. My dad went for a walk, as he does most days; but he decided to drop a few leaves on Mr. Huley’s green grass and watch how long it took him to scurry out to tidy up his yard. We timed it. My neighbor was out there within fifteen minutes! My dad tried it one last time before they left, and again Mr. Huley was outside picking up the leaves within minutes! He must have spent autumn sitting inside, watching his yard for untidy leaves.
Mr. Huley taught me to enjoy the leaves, the mess, and the untidy look of autumn. It’s funny what lessons we learn from others without really knowing it at the time. And yes, it’s amusing to see what we do for fun sometimes. I still think of dear Mr. Huley who had the best patch of green grass my eyes have ever seen, and I thank him for lessons learned and laughter shared with my father. Enjoy messes. Don’t be a hoarder, but don’t be so compulsive about having a tidy space, because sometimes other things matter so much more. There are days meant to be enjoyed even if life is a bit messy. Maybe especially then.
I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…
This is a sacred place of sorts to write about finding happiness, but I haven’t dragged myself away from the news long enough to feel happy. To sleep well. To get over daily migraines (again). To handle squabbles that arise almost every day. So how am I supposed to help you find the happiness in your world when I’m not there myself. Can I get there with you? Tell you what. I’ll try. Ready?
By the time you read this we’ll be slipping into the honey-golden month of September, and that month brings so many changes. We finally have some clear, cooler days after a summer of heat, and the blues skies no longer wear their scorched look; they appear bright blue again. Clean, bright summer still hangs on here for most of this month. The trees will start to change at the end of September, but until then we enjoy hearing the tree frogs, cicadas and if we manage to have some rain, the trees look lush, full and green.
I’ve long loved September. I lost that love when I lived in the far north, where cold, rainy days tended to show up mid-month, and I remember talking with the other moms at the school drop-off about who was holding out on turning on the heat the longest. I don’t think I ever grew used to the cold that descended by late September, so I lost the game and happily turned on that heat. Here, the moms used to try and make it to November, but I lost easily and enjoyed the cozy warmth. I don’t know where you live or when the weather changes for you, but this month brings us longer nights.
Open windows are a blessing, and I’m glad enough for the beauty and freshness of waking to open windows and birdsong. It’s not raucous as it was all spring, but enough birds stay here and make a pleasant chorus even heading into deep winter. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Autumn will arrive soon, and many people are ready for the change. I’m among them, and I’m hoping for long nights next to our sunk-in fire pit in the back yard at the home house, but at the farm we have a simple ring of stones to make campfires.
I’ll have to remember to stock up on marshmallows for roasting. I didn’t grow up making s’mores, since we thought eating a blackened marshmallow was pretty fine all by itself. My family likes the treats, so I make sure not to bake any cookies, and we’ll bring out our favorite drink to nurse by a rousing fire and talk about everything and stare up at the sky. Football games feel right, and we have tickets to a game or two already. They serve popcorn and hotdogs and I call it dinner and enjoy the game.
Did you know the full moon in September is the Harvest Moon? I always thought it made more sense to have it in October, but that’s the month of the Hunter Moon. I’m not ready to pick out mums and pumpkins yet, since that is one of October’s pleasures, but the end of summer brings an interesting delight. Some early mornings if you go out to a pond or a small lake you might see mist rising from the water that is warmer than the surrounding air. I like watching the swirling mists, though I forlornly bid good-bye to the honking geese who make such a racket as they fly far away to their winter homes.
Which brings me to a story, except this is more of a wish. I’ve long admired people who choose to go on vacation by themselves. It doesn’t have to be that far away, but I like the idea of slipping away for a few days all by myself. Yes, I can go to our cabin if I want and hole up there, taking long walks when I feel like it. But it’s the ocean that calls me and always will, so I’m thinking about spending the end of October in a beachfront house while I work on my book. I’d take walks during the day, since the sun will be low enough for me, and I’d pick up dinner at some hole-in-the-wall place that stays open even after most of the tourists have left.
Part of me wants to head to the Northeast where I came from before my family made a series of moves (that I didn’t look forward to very much). Autumn in New Hampshire or Vermont is gorgeous, and I like to stop by little villages along the way and take hikes in woods full of colors. But I’m getting ahead of myself again. We still have plenty of summer to enjoy, and our pool is still open; so I might take an afternoon plunge. This is the time when I like tidying up the outside of our house, and I’m getting ready to touch up the decks, as in two of them. I don’t turn on music, because I like hearing the birds and squirrels as I work away. I think I’ve been missing the barred owls, and I hope they come back to out little piece of land. I’ll know soon enough.
One last thing about happiness. It’s found in many little moments. Not just the big beach vacations or weddings or hosting dinners. That’s all fun and nice, but I like to look for happiness when I’m spending time with my husband, where we’ll just talk and laugh together. Or choosing to disengage from the news which is truly sad and maddening lately. Choosing to pick up a book or magazine, baking cookies or brownies for just me, or walking on the bike trail (which is really a running and biking trail that horses can use also). We can find beauty in the middle of hardship. We know we can get through just about anything, and so we do; but isn’t it worth it to find time for beauty, peace and happiness?
Try to have tea or scotch or an iced espresso some sunny afternoon. My old British neighbors enjoy sitting on their deck, having a cup of hot tea while looking at the mass of crabapple trees that tower over their fence now. I always admired the way they took the time out for a steaming pot of tea, and I went out and purchased a a teapot and strainer and loose leaf tea. English breakfast tea is what I’m planning on starting with, and if I make a decent enough cup I’ll branch out to more exotic flavors. My husband will still be at work, but books are excellent company. I can see myself staying out there in the comfy chairs until he comes home. Wouldn’t it be something if I decided to have a warm fire of my own? With tea and a book?
We don’t have to leave to have happiness. It’s living in the moment, and being willing to close off the bad and finding the beauty. It’s all around us now. We just need to lift our eyes, or open a good book or turn off the news. We can find happiness in conversations, music and more. We only have to look for it. Enjoy those September breezes and bright, clean days. This is a month of beauty and bounty. Let’s enjoy it.
I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold.
Here we are. August. The dog days of drenching sweat, humidity that makes us long for a fan or the ocean. The month with the best meteor shower, the Perseids that arrive in our skies about now. And I’ve seen them from a backyard in Milwaukee, so they are bright and enchanting and best of all, visible. Stay up one night this next week, and grab a blanket even if the night is scalding hot, because the dew on the grass will make you feel clammy. After midnight face Northeast and look up. You’ll see the shooting stars if you keep your eyes wide open. A friend or husband can keep you company, but so far I have only been able to lure my children outdoors at midnight for two hours of magic.
There have been years when I saw only two shooting stars, but in this world that seems so troubled, I wonder if a night spent looking at the universe might do us some good. If you live right in the middle of a brightly lit city, try to get out where it’s a bit darker. But this month brings us many delights. It’s not only outdoors that brings us happiness and a taste of contentment, but being inside and simply seeing vibrant green out the windows is sheer happiness. I like going barefoot as much as possible, but there are days when my deck scalds my feet and I have to run across the wood quickly. I don’t mind too much, since it reminds me of days spent lolling at the ocean, but to reach the best spot on the beach, we had to hop across the burning white sand.
Right now I’m home in Ohio, but the day is coming when I will be perched underneath an umbrella, gazing at the Atlantic, while slowly sipping white wine most likely out of a small bottle. I don’t drink beer, and dealing with wine glasses and an actual bottle seems to be too much effort when the day is about the ocean. The sound of the waves slapping the sand lulls me into a soporific state that even the best massage in the world cannot match. The wine in tiny bottles doesn’t matter, the crackers and grapes that wind up having an extra sandy crunch to them doesn’t matter. What counts is sitting in short beach chairs facing the ocean with my family, where we all sit in a line underneath a cabana or umbrella, and we talk about everything and nothing. Sometimes we’re silent, where the endless waves and the blistering sun is enough.
Until I make it back to my beach in South Carolina, which seems to be one of two places we Ohioans go, the other being Michigan, I content myself with sneakily opening windows when possible. I’ve aways been a window renegade, opening one up in my bedroom just for the smell of freshness; even in winter (not a Wisconsin winter though!) when my mother could sniff out any tiny breeze defying her efforts to heat our house, if it could even be called that. We wore a shirt with a sweater all winter since the house had to stay at 68 degrees by mother’s decree. But summers in Upstate New York were filled with highs in the 70’s. Unaccustomed to heat, I happily embraced neighborhood nights spent near a warming fire. I was barefoot even back then, and some sweltering days I miss the coolness of the hills farther north.
Summer must mean different things to us depending upon where we’re from and where we chose to live. Escaping long winters had long been my goal, and I know even our farm in Northern Kentucky isn’t as far south as I would have gone, but we’re here for good now. I think Nashville or Charleston SC would have been home for me, but Cincinnati has my friends and children; and so it claims me now also. I can handle the string of hot weather, knowing a cold Canadian front will likely blow in at some point. But August starts the season of dry weather. Crinkling leaves, hard-packed earth, with scorched gardens is part of being here. Even at midnight my sprinkler waters the garden and the two bullfrogs who have made it to this dry month.
The creek that I watch every day is down to a tiny trickle, and since my husband cut away the trees so we could see the creek in any season, I’m learning how small and shrunken Horner’s Run really is at this time. I know much of the country is stuck in an awful drought, and so many of us look skyward in hopes of finding clouds thick with thunder and rain. A soothing gentle all-day rain is a comfort in summer, but it doesn’t look like the forecast calls for anything but bright sunshine; so I might as well embrace these days. Summer is one of the best seasons, isn’t it? But I’m turning into an autumn lover, but that’s for another time.
I’m relegated to enjoying the outdoors in the evenings, though nothing prevents me from lounging on the screened-in porch; and I silently thank the benefactors of this home who built such a lovely room. My cat lives out there from dawn to long past dusk, and I have a menagerie of plants living there this summer. I pulled in my rosemary and lavender along with some catnip to entice my Willie Nelson (the cat), and they are happy next to all the Boston ferns I could grab the second they hit the stores. Here, people covet Boston ferns, and as soon as they’re placed outside Kroger, people grab two carts and load up. I’ve learned to scoop up at least five if not more. I don’t want to be too greedy with those lovely plants, but they fill a space beautifully, and my cat enjoys hiding underneath the fronds.
It’s the small things that usually bring me moments of pure happiness and pleasure. My whole family came out recently to celebrate my getting older, and I played with the two babies and the toddler who leads the way. We ate BBQ as usual, followed by the most decadent chocolate cake my daughter has ever baked. Since we watch sports in this house, the Olympics were on, and we all wanted to see Simone Biles return to gymnastics; but that day was full of track and beach volleyball. We wanted to venture out to play some bocce (lawn bowling, really), but we lingered at the table for far too long; immersed in catching up with one another and planning the beach trip that’s coming up soonish.
After they all left, plied with slices of cake, I read as the sun set and waited for my husband to sit down next to me, so we could watch the newest show we’re binge-watching. I’d like to say I knit as I watch the show, but that would require too much of my attention. I’ll learn to knit on another day. Besides, knitting seems fit for winter, while wandering outdoors even in the dark is for now. I open that back door as much as possible, hoping for puffs of cool air; and I marvel at the scent of a fire on a hot night. I light my candles and dive back into the pile of books I have stashed all over this house. I’m trying to drink more water these days, and I carry my large glass of very cold water with me along with a book. Reading at least three at a time seems reasonable, and now that I’ve joined a bona fide book club, I feel like a schoolgirl trying to cram my reading in before the big test. I’m waiting to the book to arrive tomorrow, and I have to read it all before Wednesday; so I think I’m alright.
I am happiest with new books around me, and maybe a few magazines for good measure, and a favorite drink from Starbucks is the cherry on top. And those delectable candles are scented happiness. I want to be the one who names these glorious scents, and I’m learning how to make candles. I have an idea that I’ve not seen anywhere, and my daughter and I are going to give it a try; plus I have to have a rosemary and lavender candle. That would be my signature scent, of course; and it’s all meant to be fun. Right now I have an insanely pricey candle that was a gift, and I know I have to burn it; but I like looking at it. Tomorrow. I’ll light that one tomorrow. But who names them Stormy Night or Rainy Day Sweater? I don’t know what that would smell like, but doesn’t it sound like happiness?
I have a small story to tell. It’s about those beautiful Perseid meteor showers that fall in the beginning of August. As a girl I’d go camping with my family for a week or sometimes two in the mountains. I remember being in the Smoky Mountains, hiking every day, swimming in a fast moving creek and sitting by the fire on semi-cool evenings each August. My mother called to me one night long after my father and siblings had wandered to their sleeping bags. She was on the hood of the car, leaning on the windshield. I could see by the starlight that mom was looking up at the expanse of sky above, though trees squeezed in from almost every side. She patted the hood, and I climbed up next to her and looked up. She told me to keep looking, and I would see meteorites flying through the sky; and I did! I could hear one sizzling as it entered earth’s atmosphere.
I don’t know how late the two of us stayed up that night. Probably until two in the morning, but it was worth it, because my mom opened up in the dark. She spun webs of stories about her childhood, before her father died so suddenly. I learned about my mother that night, just as I learned that shooting stars weren’t magical; even though I still cling to the romance and magic of wishing on stars, looking for Polaris, the North Star, and wishing on the first star to prick the evening sky. My mom even spoke of the awful night her father died when she was just ten, and I felt a sympathy for this person who usually didn’t talk about herself. In the dark, at night, while searching the heavens for magical shooting stars, it was easy to talk. The words spill out more easily, as one might do after too much champagne or Scotch.
Maybe I’ll drag my daughters onto the beach one night to stargaze. Maybe we need to listen when one of us speaks. It might be me, but if I wait long enough I think one of them will crack out of their role as my daughter and accept the friendship that comes with age. Then it’s safer to say words that beg to spill out into the evening air. I’ll hope for a cooling breeze to blow us about, much as I love the way the world feels right before a storm breaks overhead, and we’ll talk about everything at the same time. They’ve been out on the damp blankets with me in August since they were five years old, because searching for those mysterious shooting stars is more fun with them.
One would whisper, “I saw that! Did you?” And the answer was usually ‘no’, since we were all looking in a different direction. But sometimes the streak of light across the midnight sky is unavoidable, and we all sigh in amazement. Happiness can be held in those moments. Lying in that small backyard, at one in the morning with my children, brought me such overwhelming contentment. School was weeks away, so I didn’t mind them staying awake for the sky show. We’d even make popcorn and drink fresh lemonade as a treat before heading outside. It was on such a night that I discovered my son was night blind. I had suspected for a while but didn’t want to really know, since nothing could be done for it. When he couldn’t see even the brightest “star” in that soft, black sky (it was Venus), we all knew his diagnosis. I wonder what his world is like; not seeing any stars or planets that wheel through the night. I’ll never really know.
He’s made his peace with it, and he’ll still sit out with us on a dark night with a new moon. He’s even seen few meteorites with us. Only the brightest, but he’s seen at least a little magic. I’d willingly trade eyes with him, but life doesn’t work that way. We must carry out own burdens, and at the beach with waves crashing or in the stillness of night while looking skyward we find a pocket of happiness. August brings many gifts. We can walk barefoot, listen to the tree frogs, drink wine on the sandy beach, dive for starfish, and search the heavens. Dining on fresh tomatoes and the basil I’m growing, since the deer don’t nosh on it, is a pleasure. The days are still long, so we enjoy every single minute of sunshine. We’ll store it up for those days when winter presses in against us.
Grab onto your summer happiness. Find a shooting star. Maybe make a wish on one.
I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…
When people pass the Fourth of July and lament summer’s quickly approaching end, I have to shake my head. Why? Two reasons pop into my head, with the first being summer is nowhere near her sweet, humid, occasionally exceptionally hot end. We still have the whole long month of July before us before we’ll even notice the sun dipping below the trees earlier each evening, and August is hot and sticky too. Summer isn’t going anywhere, and even though parents might watch the calendar as the next school year approaches; it still means swimming in the pool or lake after school as a summer pleasure stolen from the approach of autumn.
The second reason why I like to luxuriate in the comfort of being in the middle of summer and nowhere past that point is because I’m from the north part of this country, and summer was just gaining her speed and strength by the Fourth of July! We finally had lakes warm enough (and warm is a relative term) to swim in and nights had blossomed with fireflies. The fans ran all day long, and even though we had some chilly nights from time to time.
My other thought about some people lamenting the loss of summer is it technically began mere weeks ago on June 21st, and summer’s deliciousness won’t end until September 21st. See how much time we have before we need to contemplate pumpkins, scarecrows and sweaters? We have all the time in the world. I suppose I have one other reason now that I dwell where summer is usually one long sweaty event. I finally fully embrace autumn when she wends my way sometime in mid to late September, due to the clear, crisp days that make me shake off the languid, long afternoons in summer. Afternoons spent hoping for the piles of cumulus clouds to turn blue and thundery just for a breath of fresh cool air. Those summer thunderstorms bring a pleasant breeze with gusts of coolness better than any ice cream sandwich.
I’m enjoying summer so much right now. The wedding was beautiful, fun and is over! All those months of planning came together in one wonderful weekend spent with friends and family, and the couple is still enjoying that honeymoon phase; so I’m going to let them have their privacy with their new life together. Meanwhile, I’m diving into those beach books that I only read in summer. Seriously. One of my life’s pleasures is books, and I intersperse my “serious” reads with easy ones meant to be enjoyed while listening the lull of ocean waves crashing on very hot sand. Beach books belong in summer, even if I’m just chilling out on the daybed in the air conditioning.
Since I haven’t been to the ocean yet this year, I’m picking photos taken at home. Where I live we do have storms that seem to pop up out of nowhere, and lucky me; I can walk out the door and have a front seat to the cloud show. Do you like to look up too? Isn’t the sky fascinating most any day, but especially these days that are suspended in sunlight? Is that why we enjoy the sudden darkening of the clouds, the tumult between white and blue?
Yesterday, my husband and I decided to sit out on the back porch and listen to the low rumble of thunder. I could barely see the clouds since they were so low on the horizon (and behind the swathe of trees), but my daughter said they had to stop swimming on account of the lightning. That meant a storm was near. So we sat and sweated and were rewarded with sudden stabs of lightning in the woods all around us! The cat wanted to go inside, and I suppose if I’d had better sense I would have followed, but the rain that went almost sideways in the downpour felt cool. Pleasant. And summer lays so much at our feet, doesn’t she?
Fresh tomatoes along with the basil that I’m growing is delightful on toasted bread. There isn’t even a need to add anything, though I doubt I could pass up some crisp bacon; hold the mayo, please. Opening the fridge and snacking on cut up sweet watermelon is a double delight, since the fridge spills cool air on my toes while I’m enjoying a farmer’s market find. Strawberry season just passed, but now the blueberries are ripe for picking, and soon the peach truck will wander our southern Ohio neighborhoods blessing us with the bounty found farther south than here. Many of us look forward to those peaches, and while I prefer blueberry cobbler to peach pie; many here make jams and jellies to remind them how summer tasted while they spread their jam on bread eaten on a cold January afternoon.
No story yet, because I have to mention my newest obsession with hydrangeas. The ones above are pretty, but after spending time in Louisville and seeing the blue or pink flowers so heavily laden on their branches; I knew I had to find a way to make them work in my garden here and in Kentucky. I’ve been wondering how to make them grow in this soil when I spotted them gracing the side of a house in my neighborhood. Nobody at Book Club tonight seemed to know if the neighbors are friendly, so I’m not certain if I can ring their doorbell and inquire as to their gardening techniques; but I’ll find a way to make hydrangeas work here. It’s been an obsession since we bought a house long ago where I inherited a magical garden.
All gardens are magical, since they exhibit the manner of the gardener. Some like a wild unkempt look while others must have order to their flowers, or at the least a theme running through their plants. I took on this beautiful garden filled with perennials and added to it over time. But I felt nervous at first, since the woman who sold us the house informed me she had spent hundreds of dollars on her flowers. I lost the phlox to mold, but the irises, clematis, roses, dianthus, larkspur and trumpet vine flourished. Summer is intoxicatingly beautiful most days, and my once forgotten love story with hydrangeas has been fully rekindled.
Gorgeous fountain, right? That’s included in my next blog post, but it’s so lovely that I had to add the photo here. But wait! I have a smallish story to tell you. When I lived in that 1920’s bungalow that had the wonderful garden, it did not have hydrangeas. Plenty of gardens in the neighborhood flaunted their bright blue flowers, but I felt slightly jealous and a bit bereft. I didn’t have much money to spend on anything back then, so the cost of that type of plant was out of the question. But on my walks I noticed which homes held the coveted flowers in their own magical gardens.
If only I could gather a few of them for myself, I could dry the hydrangeas and enjoy the blue hues long into the frozen days of winter; for dried hydrangeas last for years. I decided I was going to take a walk past a home the spilled forth with the blooms almost reaching the sidewalk. I reasoned that the flowers nearest me were begging to be taken, and the gardener would never know three or five blooms had been pilfered. Yes, I walked over a mile with a bag and scissors and a very guilty conscience, and mercifully a loudly barking dog in their front yard prevented me from becoming a hydrangea thief!
I look back now and am so thankful for that dog being there! But the story doesn’t end there. Not quite. I decided it was very wrong to take flowers from other people’s gardens, but late in that fall I happened to be tidying up the yard for the early Wisconsin winter when I spied several very neglected pee gee hydrangea bushes in the yard behind me. I couldn’t see their house due to the wall of evergreen trees that stood in their yard, and our yards were narrow and long. I asked my daughter to hop over the fence and grab a few green hydrangea stems, since they would look pretty in a wreath I was creating.
My daughter held her ground and said no, and I wound up walking around the block to ask them if I could have a few flowerets. The owners said they never went that far back in their lot, so I could have as many as I liked. Hydrangea happiness happened with no thievery involved. And as I plan to plant many hydrangea bushes as both houses, I hope I’ll share my (fingers crossed) bounty with my neighbors. What’s a few flowers between friends, right? It’s almost like borrowing a cup of sugar, except this is summer’s currency. The flowers of summer should be dried and linger long into the next year, where our eyes can feast on their colors!
Summer is here. The fireflies flicker each evening, the wishing star must wait until the sun has settled in bed for the night before it can appear. But even if our wishes must wait a bit longer right now, we can enjoy the forests, fields, skies, beaches, open air restaurants, newly born fawns or bunnies, storms, tee shirts, the droning of the fan, the trickle of the creek that happens only in summer and yes, even a longed-for garden. Wishes do come true. We don’t have to necessarily wait for that first star at twilight. We can wish to be right in the middle of summer, and here we are! In the middle with lots of fun left.
I’m wishing you all the happiness your hands and heart can hold…
Today started out a bit slow. The rain sluiced down the windowpanes, and I finally made two cups of coffee and pulled out my book for a little Friday inspiration. Outside my favorite colors played with one another, with the green in the trees, the grass and the bushes swaying in the stormy wind. As the rain lashed the screened windows from the west, I nestled into the sofa farthest away from the wet and smiled. Greens and blues mixed together, and I wanted to inhale it all and save it for a dull winter day.
If only it worked that way. June is a time when we luxuriate in the long summer sun, and some of the nights are still cool enough to justify lingering on a porch, deck or lawn in the twilight. Here the sun manages to stay out until 9:15, and even then the sky remains imbued with orange, blue and violet until an hour or so later. It fools me, and I watch the deer enjoying the clover or my roses for too long. Then when I realize I should water the plants on the porch it’s almost ten o’clock! So I mentally decide to stay up an hour later to compensate.
One of my goals is to become a semi-morning person again. I did it for years, and now I’m kicking up my heels way past midnight and loving it. But it feels like I should be able to slip out into the backyard before the sun swings above the trees. Eh, someday. The nights here are raucous with the bullfrogs in the pond, an errant cricket born too early, and the owls who love to call to one another. Over all of that I hear the rumble of the train and settle deep into my couch, and I turn another page in my book. Summer has treats tucked into it for all of us, and we are so beguiled by her winsome ways.
When I talked to the barista this afternoon, we mutually lamented the sad lack of thunderstorms this past spring. I told her a storm was on the way and to watch for it, then I drove home hoping for the storm to wander our way, rather than passing to the north. I had prayed for thunder only that morning. Thinking that the storm was moving slowly, I made a last minute decision to head down to the creek. With the morning rain we had, I could hear the waterfalls announcing their presence; and I had to see one of them.
Last minute treks down a steep hill are seldom wise, but I had a storm blowing in and had to make it down and back in time. I forgot about the uphill return trip in my eagerness to see the creek. After walking sideways down the path to avoid falling down in the mud, I picked up the trail that leads to a place where the creek runs over beautifully round stones. The gurgling is enough to make me want to sit on the creek bank for hours, except it was damp; so I soldiered on and sought out the falls.
The creek had subsided considerably by the time I went down there in the late afternoon, but I still enjoyed the bright green of early summer or very late spring. I could hear the thunder, faintly; but since the creek lies between two very high ridges; I didn’t notice how difficult it was to hear much of anything other than the unceasing rush of water. I decided to tackle a branch jam, which had formed in two places. I noticed the other subdivision had cleared out their side, but somehow our side of the creek was full of fallen (or thrown) branches and tree limbs.
I like to test my balance by walking on slippery stones, and I do mean that quite seriously. If I had thought to wear better shoes, I would have walked into the middle of the creek. I took some photos of the lovely stones and lush greens down there, and suddenly I heard a great crack of thunder! I had to move it and quickly. I started on the path, only to discover it wasn’t a path; so I retraced my steps and picked up the trail; when less than a quarter of the way up I felt drops on my hand. I had to beat the rain, only it beat me. The downpour started, and I had the worst of the climb ahead of me.
As quickly as I could manage, I made my way up the steep hill. At one point I rested under a canopy of trees, but the rain was so merciless that it offered little protection. I continued my jaunt uphill, and right at the top where the path becomes my back yard I stopped. I had so many steps, literally, to take and I had nothing left in me. Then the storm let up, and somehow I scrambled up the wet stones and into the garage and made my way into the cool house. I collapsed onto the floor in the family room and laughed at myself. What was I thinking? Going on a hike when a storm approached from the west?
Which reminds me of the time in college when I was taking my books back to the bookstore to resell them for far less than I had paid. The parking lot was quite long and narrow and was built in the middle of campus where one could see nothing but fields all around. I walked with my hands too full of books stacked one on the other, while my friend helped by holding a few. Lightning was striking closer by the minute, since a spring thunderstorm had popped up. I told my friend I felt tingly all over, and he said my hair was standing straight up all around my head.
Once when I was a very young child with white blonde hair, I had been at a fair or exhibition and a man wanted me to come up and touch some machine of his (I was so young, so details are sketchy); because he would show the crowd how static electricity worked. My hair apparently fanned out all around me into the air, standing straight out. That last day of the semester when my friend told me that, I flashed back to that day; and I knew I had to make a dash for it.
Lightning was going to strike the tallest object in the field, and I was it. The buildup of static in my hair so even the hairs on my arm stood up made me run faster than I thought possible. We both ran, and he held the door open for me while I rushed into the depths of the student bookstore. I asked him to tell me when my hair started to lie flat again. It took less than a minute, and we heard a very loud crack of thunder overhead. Thankfully, it wasn’t my head that was struck.
Now you know what not to do when a storm is approaching: drive to Starbucks, then take a hike down a cliff; or walk across an empty field. I know these things also, and yet I had to laugh at my foolishness. Again! Thunderstorms are a delight, even when I’m caught in the downpour. I enjoy them anytime of day or night, and so I’m going to pray for a wild evening filled with glorious thunder (that isn’t from a severe storm) as soon as the wedding is over.
Wedding? Not only does June bring summer, but in my family it brings out the brides. My grandmother was a June bride, as was I; and now my daughter is to be one in six short days. I’m awash in wedding details, and I’m inching my way closer to the actual day. Tonight is her bachelorette party, and it seems they went to a karaoke bar where my married daughter just picked out a song and started the singing. We all received a text of the sisters smiling together, captioned that “they were brought up right”. Yes, no one in our family is immune to the lure of a karaoke bar.
Wherever you are this week in June, find a way to stare up at the sky or into a green woods; or walk outside reveling in the heat. Realize the world is quickly opening up, and greet her like an old friend. I went to the movies last night, and we had almost the whole theater to ourselves. I didn’t mind one bit, plus movie admission costs much less than it did a year ago. Enjoy summertime in June!
I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…
The long days linger well into the evening now, and now that I’ve been in this house for two years I’m noticing smaller things that I didn’t have time for last year. We have to dwell in one place for a while before it feels like home. I certainly wondered how my son was going to sleep with the bullfrogs who decided to hold a convention in the hidden pond just down the hill from our front door, and I spent hours listening to the creek down another hill in the back. What I missed, because I was in a new place, was the feeling of dwelling among the trees.
I’m not a ranch person, meaning the one level homes so many people enjoy. I love two story homes, and my dream a long time ago was to have a third level magically looking out upon the world. My old house had the most magical maple tree in the back yard that filled our two story room. That tree imbued the room with green hues all summer long, and when brisk October swept into our lives that tree made the room a buttery pumpkin orange. My bedroom looked out upon trees on either side, and I felt happiest on warm evenings when the breeze blew through the room. It reminded me of my childhood days happily reading while the sun swung high in the sky, with a light breeze puckering at the white eyelet curtains my mother had made for me.
That’s not to say my childhood was spent only reading. I spent hours outdoors climbing trees too high, only to discover I had to act brave in front of my brother and his friends and climb down as one not worried about the long fall should I make a misstep. I raced bikes with my friends down hills and climbed though culverts which narrowed nervously to the point where I thought none of us would ever be able to squeeze through. We did, and we never went back there again. I suppose all of us spent our childhood doing some things that weren’t the smartest, but isn’t that how we learned? And wasn’t it fun? At least most of it?
We had our adventures and lived to come home and set the table while begging to have a cookie before we died of hunger. Of course my mom told me to wait, and sitting at the table was almost heavenly as we happily devoured mashed potatoes and spare ribs. Some nights we even had dessert. So how does this have anything to do with the trees surrounding my old house and my new one? Well, I think we carry the happy parts of our childhood with us, and we feel blissfully happy when our lives bring us back to what we felt as teens or much younger children. I once lived in a house with a beautifully green bedroom that had trees hiding my windows. It felt private, as though it were my secret refuge from the teenage world, and I loved it.
What else do we carry forward from younger years? Why do we listen to the music of our high school years? How can a song from junior year bring us to that day our boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with us? Yes, we’ve found new music to enjoy in the ensuing years, but those songs that we played too loudly (according to our brothers or fathers who had very different taste in music) evoke the feelings from back then if we’ll allow it. If music can do that, why not a warm spring breeze or the rustlings of a restless tree outside our window?
As adults we have responsibilities and roles to play, but when it’s our time to do with as we please, then why not pause to watch how far north the sun swings in a late spring evening? My house perches full north, and while I heard the bullfrogs who refused to be ignored and noticed the lilting lullaby sung by the creek on long summer days, I missed the nuances one only notices over time. So while I finally picked up the bestselling Where the Crawdads Sing with tea for company, I heard more than the owl who finally decided to come back. I saw more than the wall of green trees standing sentinel over this house.
I saw the way the trees line the path down the steep hill that my husband made this winter. I step outside to watch the water make its way down over the small falls, and I realize how wonderfully positioned our home is. I wanted a home that ignored the north, since the very word conjures up frigid winters spent in Wisconsin watching in alarm as frost crept up my bedroom wall. In my third summer here, I see how the southern view looks out on woods, cliffs, ravines and that beautiful creek. And I’m learning which rooms look out over leafy green limbs that make me feel like I’m above it all.
I have spent my life finding what was good in every house I’ve lived in, and if we do that wherever we are, we’re bound to find a slice of contentment even in a small apartment. I lived in a room no larger than my walk-in closet in college, and I felt cozy in my burrow with a window peeking out at the yard. In that first apartment of my own, where the couple downstairs made so much noise when they argued, I only had to turn on my fan to block the noise and look at the green plants I had bought one lonely night after work. Far from home, with a stressful job and friends strewn across the country, I found solace in what my mother did whenever we moved: bringing out the ferns, the spider plants, and the green plants she nurtured.
With our world filling in with green and that lovely deep blue that only arrives before high summer, we can find our happiness. I suppose I love evening most when I watch the sun slip below the horizon and yet the clouds above remain lit up by that same sun. An age ago I was making dinner one night when my mom and I stepped out to watch a thunderstorm approach, and I miss my old house where I could sit and see the lightning that streaked through the windows we decided to leave open. I always lit a candle just in case the lights went out, and while I still light candles; I’m still learning where to watch for the lightning. For the wildly beautiful oncoming storms of summer.
We can find happiness in places unexpected. Today while I quickly strode through our downtown “city”, since I had flowers wilting in the car waiting for the bridal shower I’m hosting tomorrow; I stopped back at the shop where I found old white ironstone bowls and still didn’t buy them. And I passed so many people enjoying the bike trail that passes through there, and others who were digging into their cups of ice cream; and the happiness at seeing people outside and together again made me buoyant with hope. I think we’re going to get through this. We can be together again if we so choose.
I’ll miss the sweatpants and t shirts. I might even miss not feeling guilty over sitting and watching another episode of The Waltons. I know! It’s an addiction. Though I just discovered The Great British Baking Show, so there’s hope for me yet. But think of all we’re gaining! We can hopefully have the wedding with no masks needed while we dance. The bridal party can be stand at the altar with their smiles in full view. We can fly to see my parents again. The freedom is spacious and happy, and I’m so waiting to take that trip to Scotland the minute Americans are allowed back in.
I found this in a shop when I went out with my bride-to-be daughter. We were back in her old neighborhood for a dress fitting and decided to wander into the shops that had flung open their doors, beckoning us to come inside. I missed the cute boutiques that didn’t make it, but we happily shopped at the stores that remained and bought a few things for ourselves. It’s been so long, and it felt like the world was on their best behavior and sweet as pie.
Wherever you are in the world, I hope you’re enjoying the greens and blues that make this time of year so pleasant. I hope you venture out to your old haunts and find new places to enjoy too. Find those songs from your teen years and listen to them one night, preferably as you sit outside drinking in the lingering twilight. Maybe it’s time to buy a green plant for outside, and while you plant in the warm dirt, look up and marvel at the clouds sailing past. This is the season we easily embrace, and while I’m going to go back to my book, I’ll think about how tomorrow the sun will stay out one minute longer. Enjoy those minutes. Enjoy as much as you can. Look for the little things that bring a smile to you. And maybe to others.
I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart and hands can hold…