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

Delightfully December…

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We’ve made it. Arrived. December sits at our feet and what do we do with it? Rush around, picking out the perfect tree, lit with fifteen strands of lights at least, baking perfectly homemade cookies, while attending holiday events looking incredibly composed even though we feel slightly crazed, desperate to create the perfect holiday (as if that exists), with Christmas cards written and sent before December 25th.  I forgot the gifts! Shop for the perfect gift for everyone on our overly long lists, including the mailman, as long as the monetary value is less than $20 per regulation. But not me. Not this year. I’m embracing a form of simplicity. I decorated with eight Christmas trees because that is my thing, but I let other tasks slide. Store-bought cookies taste great. That’s why I buy them.

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The point is to do the things you most enjoy. Christmas brings out the tree fanatic within me, but my neighbor rocks an outdoor colored light show each evening, and my friend bakes long into the nights, sharing her assortment of cookies with us every year. What do you like to do around the holidays? What makes you happy? Focus on that. Bring your brand of beauty to December, and the other stuff is just stuff.

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Christmas is not a competitive sport. No one wins an award for doing it all, even if we did it all well. Which isn’t humanly possible. Here’s a secret to my eight trees: I don’t adorn every one with ornaments even though one year my mother decided to bring a U-Haul filled with Christmas to me, as a surprise. I have enough ornaments (massive understatement); I just don’t feel the need to place them on every tree. Though the first year after the U-Haul I did re-create a Santa tree, and all my kids said that year was how utterly creepy the Santa heads with full beards and no bodies were. And I placed the Santa-head tree in the front room so everyone had a month of laughter each time they strode through the door. Not quite the look I was going for, but, I laughed too.

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In dark December, I crave light, and my trees bring that to me. I have different lights on each tree and the glow makes my soul warm even in this terribly chilly month. Candles, fires, lanterns and lights bedazzle my eyes and I don’t feel the dark descending upon the world. I love the soul who places a lit Santa next to our winding, heavily treed road, and this year Mrs Claus joined him. I smile every night and wonder how many extension cords they needed to plug in the Clauses in the middle of their woods.

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Embrace December, regardless of your beliefs. Be willing to change traditions. I don’t know how this started, but after going to church on Christmas Eve, my family loves to go to China Town Buffet. So we do. I only have to produce one dinner then, as expected on Christmas Day. But if you don’t do Christmas, go to the movies (though I think that is becoming very popular), or stay all day in your P.J.’s doing what you love. Spend these dark nights with those who light up your world.

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And even better than that; spend some time with others who struggle with bills, loneliness, bad health, and face a bleak winter. Give. Give away your manicure. One December, I really wanted to take a romantic horse ride through the city, but decided to hand the cash to a homeless man. I’m so warm thinking of his smile. I feel it years later. Find the beauty in this month. She might be hiding a bit, but search for her.

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I’m back on the hunt for beauty and happiness, and it feels so good. Spread the warmth. Light up your soul. My goal this month is to set aside the time to read a good novel. Iced tea and a book, even if December brings more cold and cloudy days.  I’ll sit by my Christmas forest and smile in sheer contentment. I’ll be back in a few days. We have so much to look forward to…together.

Sunflowers in winter…

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Happiness. We all want it. Sometimes we go to great lengths to attain it, and somedays we pursue our happiness at the expense of someone else’s. Their happiness. The flowers I really wanted to bring home this week were beautiful tulips, those harbingers of spring, but my husband really wanted the bouquet with a sunflower in the middle of it. I calmly explained sunflowers, to me, belong to late summer and fall, but he steadfastly remained fixed upon the sunflower. I bought the happy little sunflower, and it’s nice. Look…

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I had my hot cinnamon tea with his sunflowers, and a side of sugar. So what is it that makes you happy? Truly warm to the tips of your toes and singing in the shower kind of happy? For me, right now, I just noticed the slant of the sun is higher. We’re almost six weeks past from the winter solstice, and at that point the temps begin to rise a bit and the sun swings her way higher and longer each day.

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While I sipped my tea and thought about what book to delve into next, my mind drifted to you. Are you as affected by the weather as I am? Do you suffer with cabin fever too? We can have days where we stay inside and hibernate, but going out is a great remedy for winter doldrums. That and finding little celebrations in life. Valentine’s Day? Oh yes, please! Ever since Andy made me a huge homemade Valentine back in fifth grade, I’ve loved Valentine’s Day.

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Now I send Valentines to all of my family, and not just the one I love romantically. Spread the love. As soon as that holiday passes, I’m onto St. Patrick’s Day. Seriously. Give me Mardi Gras, Easter, Boxing Day and I’m on it. Life’s little celebrations bring happiness.

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I just came across an article about people in India who use their cell phones to wish all their friends and family, “Good Morning!” along with an image or a motto for the day. They do this every morning, wanting others to know they are thought of! How cool is that? I say that knowing full well my friends are sweet enough to wait until I am fully awake and properly espresso-ed before wishing me a “Good Afternoon”. I think all those people in India sending greetings out is a fabulous way to celebrate the day.

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Find something to celebrate this week. An event. A day to enjoy. A small bouquet of flowers you give yourself. Even if it has an out of season flower right smack in the middle of it. Eat a cupcake this week. Watch good t.v., something inspiring. You can have little celebrations throughout this week. And no, it hasn’t escaped me that it’s Monday. Save some time for you. Take a bath, a run, read, sing, laugh, even on a Monday. Especially on a Monday!

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Wherever you are, feel happy.

Until next time…