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…
Until next time,