Moon, Stars, Sun and wind…

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…

Until next time,
Deanna

A Season For Everything…

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.

An old forgotten home near our farmland.

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.

A late summer flower arrangement.

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.

A well used path at the farm.

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.

The path to the beach from the house.

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.

Until next time,
Deanna

The Deep Dive…

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…

Until next time,
Deanna

In the deep…

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…

Until next time,
Deanna

Thunderstorm delight…

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.

My image of the storm on my way to get iced espresso.

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.

My cat enjoying the sunshine on the porch.

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…

Until next time,
Deanna

Unfettered…

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,
Deanna

Looking through a window…

I’ve been impatient with spring and her wily ways, hot sun on my neck one day only to turn around and feel the sting of a cold winter rain the next day. As a child I never noticed how spring starts at the ground and makes her way upwards. First the grass turns an impressive emerald green, and suddenly what looked murky and dreary is brightened by the new hue. The forsythia is next here, bright yellow and showy, but I don’t have any in my new yard, so I stare at the blessed ones who do.

Next are the bushes, with honeysuckle bursting forth, and I wait and watch for the trees to break out in pink, white and green. It’s so difficult to feel down when the sky is turning a deep azure again, soft breezes play at the windows, making me want to give in to all the pollen and open every single window. I do stand at the large front windows looking out, and I want to join the parade of runners and walkers, but my lot is different and I have to take walks at twilight and pull weeds when the shadows grow long. Sunlight isn’t a friend anymore to me.

As I walk in the evening with my husband, it feels good to see others out with their kids or walking a dog, but I’m secretly plotting how to walk on the bike trail (we call it the bike trail, but it’s for walking, running, roller skates and horses too) in the middle of the day when the new grass and fresh blooming trees smell like a salad. Seriously, I have no beautiful word for the essence that is spring, except to name it salad greens, and I inhale and recall how I’d run and think of food at the same time.

I suppose we all have out little eccentricities, and mine was to run dreaming of barbecue spare ribs, sweet corn bread, sliced new cucumbers and strawberry short cake. My track teammates in high school used to ask me what I smelled for dinner, knowing it was my imagination taking me away from the agony of 400 repeats at a sprint. And on a warm day, when the birds talk loudly and the world is full of color, I crave spring greens. Salad. Someone could label a candle “salad greens”, and I’d buy it. I’d want to eat it.

Spring can’t be caught, not even captured in an image on a coffee cup full of precious caffeine, but it’s experienced. Here where I live, spring creeps in sometime in March and she doesn’t fully open until later in April, but I’ve lived places where spring is a punch of blooms, birds and heady lilac scents all at once. One day is winter, and we all seemed to know when spring had finally reached it’s tendrils far enough north, so we could cast off our coats and throw on tees and sandals.

I had few days in college where I could wander away from my books and studying, and the most difficult days were in spring. I’d lean my forehead against the slim window in the library and wish I could fling away my work, but I didn’t have time for her. Spring. You know I have my stories, don’t you?

One evening, after a long day filled with upper level classes with words like mergers and acquisitions, followed by studying for statistics (not as easy as one would imagine), I managed to lure my boyfriend out of the library where he was more diligent than I, and we went to the store, the only grocery store in town and for some strange reason we bought pecan cookies thinking the other really liked them. We took the cookies and sat near Hyer Hall near full leafy trees under a midnight blue sky pricked with stars, reveling in the night while taking small bites of a cookie neither one of us would ever eat alone.

We laugh about it now, and to this day we’re not sure why we picked those cookies, but I think we remember the evening spent playing hooky from studying. For a while, because we both were in the same classes and rather competitive, so our books still sat wide open to pages that had been read five times over until we succumbed to spring’s delights. After we stared at the stars and wondered about our future, we made our way back inside. Cloistered with old books, dusty with age, we were brought in by duty and fear of failure.

We wound up together, that boy and me. I think all those days of forcing ourselves to stay in and study followed us into our real lives afterward. Demanding careers beckoned, and I watched autumn from a window, too afraid to fail again, so I made sure to put in the required overtime, and the boy studied for an important exam. We both did. But we learned to enjoy running outside, so we could feel the breeze and embrace the sunset. I’d gaze at gardens given over to tulips and daffodils, vowing to plant them when we had some money.

Those days were rewarded. Now we can take some time, some, and luxuriate in the owl who’s come back or rediscovered his voice, and the three waterfalls just down the hill from us that look fast and sound rushed as the spring rains fill the creek. That water has places to go, and so do we. Taking our time to sneak up on a pond to hear the peepers, those tree frogs is pure fun for me. In Wisconsin they wouldn’t come out until May, but here they are making a ruckus in March, and we listen and watch.

I leave the back door open as many days as I can, because I like hearing the creek, and I hope for nights of endless lightning. Thunderstorms are a spring ritual here, and sitting on the back porch while the storm rolls in makes up for all those days stuck in a library or a conference room. We have a bit more time to watch storms and run inside when the rain pelts at us, and the next morning I walk to the one window I choose to keep open on almost any day from April until November, and the creek gleams at me. Then the trees grow in fuller, and the creek becomes a delightful little secret.

As for now, this spring? I am planning on walking early. I know, the whole night owl thing can be a drudge, but last year I walked at midnight and found few lights burnings inside the houses of my neighbors, my friends. They were tucked away dreaming of their morning walk followed by a stretch session with coffee, and I want that again. That’s the beauty of spring. She brings us too many possibilities that we cannot keep up with her, but the sun slips down later, and the moon rides high in the night sky, waxing to full. How can we not want to go strawberry picking, or looking for covered bridges on a pretty day.

I think that is the word for springtime. Pretty. Even on tough day, bad days, I’ve sat outside and maybe cried, but I always wound up looking up and marveling at what we have. All of us. The beauty is here. We just have to look for it. A cat sitting screened inside an open window, or driving with the top down in the car, playing our music a little too loudly, but still. And my husband and I will agree that Oreos are the best, and we’ll laugh at what we did so many years ago when the world held promises that she kept. Be happy. Even for a minute. An hour is better, but take one minute and look.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold.

Until next time,

Deanna

Secret pleasures…

With my laptop working properly now, let’s get on with finding happiness and beauty in our worlds. March came in like a lamb, but I’ll take warm, sunny days in this tempestuous month when the skies cannot decide if spring has finally arrived to stay, or if winter is going to give us one last kiss of snowflakes and cold. It isn’t winter’s fault that most of us long for her to depart by this time of the year, but spring is beguiling and a time full of promises. I decided to grab some roses on sale, and make a slightly unkempt arrangement of greens and flowers. Spring is here in my house to stay.

Today I have the back door open wide to the porch, and last night when I stood by that back door I heard the barred owl hooting again. He perched very close to the house, and I didn’t want to interrupt his bliss over the arrival of spring, so I remained inside, tucked out of sight. My cat lives in the screened in porch when the weather allows, and he seemed as excited by the owl as I was. I suppose spring brings happiness to all. Even the birds have taken up the chorus, and every morning they sing with delight, and the evenings are now filled with the soothing sounds of birds preparing for a night of slumber. Just not “my” owl! He likes to make a ruckus long after twilight.

Since I didn’t plant daffodils or tulips, I’ll be missing out on them, but I’m going to plant them together this upcoming fall. Deer won’t eat daffodils, so I plant them with the tulips and I’ll have to wait and see if it works. We do have many deer at this house, and they seem to think this is their ground; their land. My husband drove down the long driveway only to spot a group of deer standing close to our house. He looked at them, while the placidly took notice of him, and after many seconds passed, he gave up and left the deer to themselves. I so enjoy seeing them here, even if the do like my boxwoods. Maybe they’ll stay away from the pansies I planted. We’ll see.

We also don’t have any forsythia bushes, so I found a large handfuls of those beautiful yellow stems in a bucket at the store, and they are jauntily perched in two jars on the mantle. The warmth of the house is causing them to open up and show their springtime hues, and I’m the lucky one who sips coffee from my shamrock mug and wistfully wishes to head out for a long walk in the woods. I do have coffee mugs for every season and most holidays. Why not? Mugs are inexpensive, so I tend to impulsively purchase one or two that fit my mood. There’s happiness in the little things.

I’ve been trying to decide when we should place the outdoor Adirondack chairs around the fire pit. It seems a mite too early, and I think we’re expected to have rain for several days, which is our typical spring pattern, at least for the first half of the season. I didn’t get the chance to walk down to the quiet creek today, since I decided to do some housekeeping inside, though always with an open window nearby. We’re going to plan my daughter’s wedding, so four of us are going to taste their menu. I keep telling myself we are sticking to chicken rather than lobster and steak, but when it comes to my kids’ weddings I tend to go over the top. Just a smidge.

Weddings are joyful days, even when a few tears are shared over the enormity of what two people are pledging to one another. Throwing a wedding is nerve-racking at moments, but when the day arrives I’m excited to be able to have a few quiet moments interspersed with the fun of family and dear friends mixing together, laughing, dancing, enjoying the magic of a night filled with live music, some chardonnay (for me), and cake. With frosting. I think life is too short for no frosting!

Since it’s now the weekend, I’m in Kentucky and just came in from a long walk with my husband. The air felt mild and when the sun decided to peek through the clouds, I thought walking the hills of the land would be more beautiful than sticking to the road. Besides, this time of year no spiders are out, and we like to visit all the ponds, even the one that disappears in summer. We now have five ponds to enjoy, and I do so love my own hidden pond. I feel like she’s a beautiful secret, even if most people wouldn’t feel beguiled by the water.

The photograph is from January, since I decided to tuck away my camera and enjoy just looking at the beauty of this land. The ponds were often created by farmers in the 1800s, as this one was, for their cattle to have a place to drink. The soil is clay, which is why the land here has so many of the little ponds, and I wonder about the family who lived here and what their lives were like. Were they happy? Did they like living here? We visited their family cemetery too, and I think about the beautiful stone monuments that stand for each child and the mother. I still don’t know where the patriarch of the family wound up resting. I wonder about him, also.

You probably know by now that I find cemeteries fascinating places to look and wander, and I do hope the farming family had good times along with those sad days when someone was buried up the hill from where their little house stood. I know from the many stories my grandmother told me at night when the soft evening wind blew down from the woods behind her house, that many children died even in the 1930s. My grandma told me about twins she carried and lost, along with other infants who were born too early, and she didn’t tell it with sadness but rather as a statement.

My grandmother wove stories together seamlessly, and I learned that her life, tough as it was, had beautiful moments. The sad tales gave way to happier ones, and I count myself blessed to have those stories inside my head; tied to my heart. So I remember them now for her, since she too has gone to rest, and I make sure my kids know about her life and what it felt like to be her. I carry my grandmothers with me, and tell the old stories for them. They delight me, and my children have become linked to their past. I see the power of remembering people we’ve never even met but in tales.

She made delicious grape jelly over the course of several days. Grape jelly made from the grape arbor in the back yard made her feel pleased, and though she didn’t have much time to devote to gardening, stowing away homemade jelly made her feel rich. While I haven’t ever tried my hand at making jam, I need even a little bit of earth to garden. After today’s walk I have an idea to create a cutting garden just for me. A secret garden of sorts, tucked out of the way on the side of a hill back home and maybe one here too. We all have secret pleasures that bring us happiness.

What are you going to do this spring to bring moments of beauty to your world? Have you thought about about that yet? I’ll try to be back on Wednesday, since my laptop issues made me lose over a week with you.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your hands can hold…

Until next time,

Deanna

Moonlight meandering…

The clouds broke up in time for the moon to show her full face, and I watched from a window I had opened earlier in the day. She continued swinging higher through the branches in the trees, and I wondered if the moon could ever be caught in them. My bare feet felt cold on the tile, since the unusual warmth of a late winter day had chilled to perfection and still I breathed in the scent of freshness. No scent of a fire made of cedar, nothing except the quiet of evening settled down upon the hills that surround our home.

As a young girl I remember running outside through the freshly washed sheets hanging on my grandmother’s clotheslines. My brother and cousins were prohibited, yet since I alone was the only girl, I think my grandmother took pity on me as I followed her while she reached up to drape all her linens on the line in the sunshine. Running through just dry sheets brought me early memories that refuse to leave, so indelibly did they imprint on my mind and imbued my senses.

My grandmother had only one bedroom in her home, since the upstairs is where her younger sister lived, which meant grandma and I shared a room. I would climb into bed with crisp sheets still scented with fresh air. Somehow sunlight, evergreens, clouds and breezes had all wrapped themselves into those plain percale sheets, and I fell asleep to stories of days long past and the sweet fragrance of outdoors. No candle can capture that freshness no matter how much they try. Which means I’m going to leave my sheets outdoors sometime just so my children can crawl wearily into bed and be lulled by the same heady scents I used to enjoy.

Why do I bring up the memory now? Because even though I am enjoying candles lightly fragranced with oranges, cloves and cinnamon, it isn’t the same as having spices simmering on my stove, and I want to go back to a more natural way of living, if possible. Of course I’m not giving up my dishwasher, but my daughters miss walking in and feeling embraced by the fragrance of the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves that filled our home. Our home in Wisconsin was drafty and a tinge chilly, and all winter the air inside felt dry, so I boiled water, and one day I decided to see what would happen if I dropped some spices in, and suddenly our home felt cozier and warmer without raising the thermostat up at all.

Now we live in very southern Ohio, and I could afford to open the back door to our porch in February. The winters here are grey, but they don’t last too long, usually arriving after Christmas much to my disappointment and punctuated by warm days starting in February. My cat sat quietly next to that door this morning, and he didn’t do that for the last eight weeks, so I trusted him and was met with the sound of the creek rushing by and the surprise of a warm breeze. We both meandered out into the bare porch. He laid in the sunlight and I idly watched the creek as the water flowed quickly over the falls.

This photo was taken weeks ago, and all the ice and snow are gone, but the creek has swelled to twice its width. I know I must go down tomorrow to gather my thoughts and take some more photos. I want to see the little falls we “own” now. How can anyone own water? Maybe the ponds that dot our fields and woods in Kentucky, sure, but this creek is always running onward, rushing to some place it simply must find. Today she spoke wildly and didn’t have time to babble or rest in a still area near the rocks.

Do you feel the moods of the day speaking to you? Can you see the moment the sun lets go and succumbs to sinking far into the west? Do you notice the moon in her many moods, and how the clouds kiss her face, only to darken her for a moment? How about the cold winds of winter? Do you wonder at the bite of that cold, wondering how the air can feel savage? And when warmer winds beguile us and tempt us to forget our work or study and come out to play, do you follow? See how the days and nights talk to us? I try to listen. I had to finally close the door and the window, because a cold front blew through, but I have a warm fire at my feet and a pile of books next to me. And the candles. Always the candles.

You can see the rooms I walk into. The coziness of the browns feels rich and comforting in winter or fall, and the large front windows are more for summer days when the light lingers long into the evening. Here, in June and July, it is light until almost ten in the evening. I like watching the light play with the sky through these windows, where if I’m lucky enough I’ll see the deer who travel in a group pass by in front. Yes, they nibble away at the boxwoods, but it’s all part of being close to the woods.

I suppose I have no time left for stories, so I leave with this instead. I had two very different grandmothers. One lived on the edge of a large forest, and she had about an acre of her own, where the other grandma lived in a small city brought together to mine coal. That grandmother always felt too busy for me to ask her many questions, but I did watch her in fascination as she hung out her clean laundry to dry. Clotheslines were strung up between her house and the neighbor’s just twenty or thirty feel behind her, and as she hung out her sheets she would pull the line close to her second story bedroom window in winter or summer. She reached outside to quickly fasten her clean sheets between the row houses.

I never asked if they worked out a schedule, so they wouldn’t need the lines on the same day. Grandmothers are very different and while I loved her, she was brusque, busy and forever having people over to visit. I’d wend my way over to a relative who had time for me. My grandmother’s sister did, as she lived alone, so we’d play games for hours on end and she’d ply me with pie and pay attention to my words. Isn’t is odd what we carry forward with us? We don’t choose it at the time, but it follows us nonetheless and hopefully we are wiser and richer for it.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time,

Deanna

the warmth of a snowy day…

The snow arrived after the sleet stopped. Hearing the sleet hitting the windows made me cold enough to turn on the fire which warms up the downstairs nicely. I decided the day looked dark enough to light the candles, and I decided to curl up in my warmest blanket while I worked on my laptop. At times, I’d leave the warmth to brew another cup of coffee. After I had done some work, I opened up one of the books I’m reading.

I decided to read the easier book, while I waited for the snow to finally arrive. I’m trying to get into The Silmarillion since it’s been almost thirty years ago that I slogged through those pages. Reading on any given day is a delight for me. Hand me a book, and as long as I have iced tea or hot coffee nearby, I am deep into happiness. Some people find their bliss on a spa day or time spent outdoors, but a book in my hands with a glowing fire or an open window in spring, is a day or a night filled with contentment and peace.

I didn’t set foot outside yesterday, as I was content to watch the day pass from my nest inside. I had a wonderful view from the front windows, and I did open the door to watch the snow when it arrived about twelve hours late. Living where the world stops during almost any snowfall means enjoying the beauty of a world swathed in white when she arrives. By next week all of this will be gone, and the spring rains will take over, so I wanted to enjoy the whirl of flakes as they made their way to kiss the earth.

What is it about snowy days that makes me want to bake bread and stay well wrapped in sweats and two pairs of socks? I didn’t bake the pumpkin bread yesterday, so I promised myself that today I would. It’s terribly cold now, and this would be a wonderful day for chocolate chip cookies, but I haven’t baked pumpkin bread in a long while. My cat is keeping me company, and he looks at me occasionally as if to inquire if I would be so kind as to turn on the fire in the hearth.

I usually save that for the evenings when we gather in that room after dinner. Sometimes we drink a bit of whiskey and enjoy honey-roasted peanuts. They pair together quite well. On other nights, even the coldest ones, I find myself pulling out a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Who ever thought ice cream in the middle of winter would be a delight, but it is. Though slicing into a still warm loaf of bread sounds better today, and I know my son will slather his slice with lots of creamy butter and carry it to his room upstairs. I need to have that ready in time for a late afternoon treat, where I’ll pair it with a hot cup of coffee.

I’m thinking about walking outside to enjoy the view and to take some pictures for fun. It’s bitterly cold now, and I’m wondering if the creek will completely freeze over. This is my last chance to see the creek in her winter glory, because the spring rains are predicted for next week, and the sound that one creek makes as the water rushes on to the large river nearby is so loud! When we first moved to this house on the edge of the woods, or rather in the center of the woods, we marveled at the sound a creek could make after a thunderstorm.

Well, I’ll have to leave the cat longing for a warm fire and turn on the oven. It’s time to bake. Time to do more than read a book, too. I can do that tonight after dinner. I’ll light the candles and turn down the lights, and the space becomes smaller. The cat and I keep each other company deep into the night, where we both cocoon ourselves in piles of blankets and pillows. It would be heavenly to have some homemade bread ready for a long after midnight treat, so I must stop writing and see if I have any cinnamon in the pantry. I’m going to fill this house with the heady scent of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold today….

Until next time,

Deanna