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

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

It’s a happy life…

My kitchen table at New Year’s.

Here we sit uon a New Year, with prospects for it to go better than the last, and for once I rang in the new with no celebration other than binge watching a show with my love, toasting with wine and whiskey at midnight and sharing a lovely kiss. No watching the throngs of people mashed into Time’s Square in New York, where I always wonder why they want to be there in the cold, and no party this year, not with even another couple, let alone thirty of my friends.

Because I want to help out my daughter who just had a sweet baby who has days and nights mixed up, all I need to do is show up Covid-free, so we’re being careful, and hold the baby for a while. Graveyard shift, but I will gladly take it. In fact, I revel in telling of my last baby, born at the end of November, and his days and nights were mixed also, and I had to run around with my two older kids besides. When my husband and I wandered over to the neighborhood party on New Year’s Eve, the ladies swooned over my one month old. I just swooned from lack of sleep.

The best view of the creek that has ice on it this year.

I tried to make coherent conversation, but then it struck me. If my friends were sober, they could hold my son for a few hours, and I had brought bottles, so I asked if they would like to hold onto him, and his daddy toted the little guy home much later. I went home well before midnight to…sleep. New Year’s Eve parties do come in handy at times, but tonight the world seems muted, waiting, guarded, yet gathered around the table again. We’re in a state of anticipation and becalmed excitement. And yes, more waiting.

Are you talking more and connecting? I know we played games on our Christmas Day, which we celebrated on Christmas Ever day, because my nurse daughter worked on Christmas Day. The day felt authentic, even though we forgot to read Luke Chapter 2 the way my father always did before opening gifts. I think having an excited toddler, with his new baby sibling along with all my kids being together, with their husband and fiancé too, made for a noisy, happy day filled with more fun and laughter at the joy of being able to spend this precious time together.

Do you see what I see?

Did you feel that way too? As if your holiday meant more, because of all we need to do to be safe, and we don’t have those casual spur-of-the-moment visits, so we find time together to be a gift. No arguing politics (it’s done!), and no arguing about food because we all brought everything we wanted and noshed all day long. And I think as weary as we all are now, it will be so different next year. Well, this year now, because I think we will appreciate the little things that make our lives happier.

Right? From meeting with friends at Starbucks for three hour long chat sessions, to flying out on a crowded plane to see my mom and dad, or greeting people with a hug, seeing smiles again, visiting the theatre finally, going to sporting events, staying in a hotel or that trip to Scotland (fingers crossed, and please God make it so), to seeing my neighbors and standing to talk to them and none of this cursory, “hi” and “cold today” from twenty feet away. And I appreciated the cookies our neighbors brought over and it is something we all look forward to, but I handed out candles to be “safe” when cookies taste better. I should have done cookies, but with the new baby and all. Ah, well, there’s always this year, right?

A wee dram with my Scottish Highland dreams by the fire.

How are you doing? Are you finding bits of happiness peppered through your week? Do you miss your family? Your routines? The sky still looks the same. I look up and realize the stars and moon have no idea what social distancing is. The owls are silent now, but we do hear the neighbor’s dogs and I like that too. The dogs have no idea anything has changed, except we are all home more. I like that cozy feeling of knowing my neighbors are near, my home is warm and we gather nightly in front of the fire.

No, it is not real, we have that at the cabin, but the gas fire draws us in anyway. We grow almost too warm, and I light the candles I bought from London. The one labeled Winter is excellent, but the Highlands candle is eh, so I’ll gift that away. And we talk. Have you discovered the magic of a zoom call? I love them most of the time. My sister organizes it, I press a button and suddenly I’m looking at my brother’s ceiling, my father’s knee and my sister’s table. They are all yelling that they’ll be right there, and then we sit, talk, tell stories and laugh. We talk about our old cars that my day duct taped together. Well, one, but I could see the road underneath as I drove. Dad told me not to look down then! Laughter!!

Getting little gifts in the mail is a treat!

The talking. The connecting as we laugh about the Kentucky Meat Shower that someone brought up, we googled and it’s a thing! I’m going to miss the zoom calls. And the connections made on social media for me this year have been so fun. My friend who lives in Nevada sent me this gift, above, when I mentioned how I love Vegas and want to go back. Maybe the Luxor is in my future. I smile every time I see that. As I hope you smile when you pass by a trinket given to you in friendship. Or by a love. From a child. We still have that.

I think we will have a good deal more in the new year, and I hope you fill your eyes with the beauty of a sky filled with stars or the soft sound of snow gently falling, muting the sounds, filling us up. We can still use these next months well, before things get back to a new normal. We can read that novel, the good one about the Crawdads. We can talk face to face or on the phone. We can gather people together in our hearts, keep them in our thoughts and always our prayers. We still have some time before the reset button is pushed, so let’s use it for good.

We’re at the cabin, so its toasty warm here.

Use these winter months to be you. Sweatpants, messy hair, enjoying your cup of tea or your warming soup on a chilly day. Read, write, because people will want to know what it was like in the pandemic of 2020/2021. Walk outside. Sing inside. Light the fire, or a candle. Tell someone how beautiful they are, and then go back to playing your guitar, baking those cookies, and laughing at the year that was. We can certainly smile knowing this year is going to be a good year, because of all we have learned.

I’m wishing you a wondrous New Year filled with all the happiness your heart can hold.

Until next time…

Deanna

Dark eyes of the soul…

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What’s this? A window with wooden slats open to the night. Big deal? Yes, to me it is a big deal, and I have to stop writing to close out the dark. I’ve always hated seeing the windows open at night, unless it is warm out, because I feel the dark pressing against me. The dark has no soul, and I don’t like the bottomless pit of these soulless eyes peering at me. Watching me. Silly, huh?

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Except it works the other way by day for me. I felt all warm and happy inside. Just lit up by my screened in porch, with the pillows set for summer (oh cold weather, please leave for the upper North), my Boston ferns happily perched on the floor, and I look outside. All is bright, lit, the sun shines with a wisp of cloud scurrying by to join the rest of his friends. Must be a wayward cloud. Happily enjoying the gifts of this day.

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I shutter out the night, except the whole set of front windows have no curtains, no sheers, because those beautiful windows rise from the floor to the ceiling. I cannot bear to cover them up, but at night, when I’m alone, I feel like dark’s eyes are on me, watching my movements. It’s not a pleasant feeling, but it goes back to childhood. I had two windows that “screamed”. They made a high pitched whistling sound, and at five, I imaged all the monsters screaming for me.

My mother told me they were angels singing me to sleep. If that’s what angels sound like, I thought back then, who wants to spend any time in heaven? I’ve since changed my mind and made an easy pace with whistling, not properly sealed windows. I’m good with the angels. All is well.

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So I shutter out the dark, embracing the lights and the warmth within. Which brings me to you. How are you holding up these many, many weeks that droll on? An end is in sight, though cautiously. I went to the market and picked up tulips. Yellow is a happy color, don’t you think? Plus, I asked for just flowers for Mother’s Day, no chocolate, so I couldn’t very well buy a massive arrangement to brighten up my springtime home, could I?

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Are you looking forward to getting out more, being able to go more places, even with all the rules laid in place? Are you cool with isolation and hoping it goes on for a while longer? For the first time, tonight, I felt the strings of regular life pulling on me. I’m ready for full on summer. Are you? And I just cancelled our beach home for June! We will go next year. In the meantime, Im enjoying every sunbeam that floats my way, just like Willie is on the porch.

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Aren’t we told to soak up the sun? I think it’s time you decided what you’re comfortable with and do it! One thing. I’m going to get a pedicure and relax. Not say a word. And I might putter in the garden and pick some fresh lavender. Do you see it growing, in spite of the cold we’ve had? I think gardening is a blessing; you get so much in return. Hand sunk deep in cool soil while placing the plants in their dirt for the season feels right.

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The pics with sunlight make me smile. Even if Willie snuck into yet another photo. I love this light, so full of soul. The energy coming from the windows is bright, effusive, welcoming and happy. Ah happy! You knew that was coming. I love seeing the slant of the sun as it makes its pass in the sky, sailing high above our heads. I feel brightened. No dark, soulless black pressing against me.

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Wherever you are, enjoy the gifts of spring. It costs nothing to wake up and listen to birdsong. Though when I was in LaConner last summer, the birds began their racket at five a.m. Yay for morning birds. I learned to drink more coffee on that trip.

Flowers picked from your yard are free and smell heavenly. You can rearrange your rooms to make it feel happy and friendly. These extra days at home can bring simple little bursts of happiness. I’m not talking about that pint of Half-Baked by Ben & Jerry’s, though it is yummy. I was thinking of how we can enjoy the length of each new day. The days are still growing longer, and I heard tree frogs making a racket when I was at the farm in KY last week. Simply happiness is in the small things. We just have to find them.

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As the sun sets and I bid you a good night, think about your little bits of happiness. In isolation. Wearing masks. Being socially distant. The whole world is together for once. It might not be fun living through a major historical event, but there are small moments of happiness such as mac & cheese for dinner. The cheap box kind. Or a warm strawberry just picked. Hearing the owl hoot in the woods behind you. Buying a Boston fern for all summer and autumn. Maybe some lavender for by the kitchen window? Why don’t you fill your home with soul? A happy soul. Find it, and when the night creeps in so stealthily upon us, we won’t care. Choose happiness.

We’ll have so much light and happiness in our own souls, we won’t worry what is outside our windows. I think I’m going to try that tomorrow. Tonight? I’m still going to close the blinds. Old habits and all that.

Wherever you are, I’m wishing you all the happiness in your world…

Until next time,

Deanna

Drams and dreams…

The sun disappeared thirty minutes ago, and the sky looks like snow. Coming from Syracuse, where six inches of snow is unremarkable, and school was never cancelled, I’m dreaming of a proper snowstorm; one that dumps snow so thick and furiously, that once the driveway is shoveled, I have to go to the top and begin again. Or give up and hide inside for a few warm hours.

Sitting by the fire at our cabin…

We do have a quiet cabin that’s our refuge from the world, and I’d very much like to have a Christmas there, but not this year. My grandchild is due on Christmas Eve (oh please, little baby, show up in time for Christmas, because you’ll be the best gift ever!), so staying close by makes sense. I can drink my morning coffee and watch the birds from my windows, and day dream about the thick, deep snows of my childhood.

marathon cookie baking with my daughter…

Do you hold fast to traditions or are you flexible, whimsically following your heart? For years, I spent most holidays far from home, because I lived in Wisconsin with my own family and simply didn’t have the money to travel home, and vacation time was (still is!) precious, so we stayed in Tosa and created new traditions. But we usually had snow. Wisconsin is cold and wintering there should earn us all thermoses of hot chocolate. One winter frost covered the entire back wall of the kitchen. Inside my house. I know!

A light snow at the cabin…

While I’m waiting for that baby, waiting for Christmas, waiting for some time off, and waiting to give gifts (which happens to be my second favorite part of the holidays), I made plans to bake cookies with my daughter. The other daughter is studying abroad right now, but she’ll be home in time to sample the goodies I bake. And I wonder, even with a heart that hurts for others who are walking dark paths, for those who don’t know their way home to love and wholeness, I wonder how to make them happy. Can I? 

the more chocolate chips in the batter, the better…

Can we find beauty in the mundane? Yes. Absolutely. Can we find it in the unexpected? Of course. Most times. Can we forge ahead with new traditions, new ways to connect with ourselves and others? Absolutely, yes. This cookie baking will be interesting and I’ll take pictures, because I bake according to the directions and my daughter? She likes to experiment and sometimes the result is delicious and then there are cakes that come out hard as a rock. I’m looking forward to sampling her recipes as well as mine. 

sipping bourbon on a chilly evening…

The sky is darkening even more and I have a book begging to be edited, so I’m going to have to wander away from holiday musings with you. But I wonder, do we make our own happiness? Or are we waiting for others to fill that want? Forging ahead even on cold days and frigid nights, facing our ways through the crowds with a tiny smile on our upturned faces, takes discipline and we can practice that. Smile just a bit and see how many faces turn as you pass by. See how your happiness imprints on others and bring that beauty to your loved ones. Bring them the beauty of a happy heart. I’m running out of iced tea, so I do have to make a Starbucks run….

Until next time…