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

Savoring the season…

How did your November go? Was Thanksgiving strange? Hopefully it was still a lovely day, full of reasons to be thankful. Now we’ve turned the corner into the Christmas season, and it is different. I still have to remember to put on my mask as I walk into the store, but I decided to help my daughter shop for the last few items for her little family before she welcomes her second child and we had a lot of fun today. No, I couldn’t drink my Starbucks while I shopped, but we wondered what kind of wrapping paper her little boy might like.

Candles and cookies. We look forward to our neighbors’ cookies.

One thing is certain. Change happens to all of us, and while this might be a strange time for us, people are still getting married, having babies, moving to new homes and still visiting virtually. While waiting for the new baby to make her entrance into the world, I’ll also be watching my bride-to-be daughter trying on wedding dresses next week. And by this time next week, I will finally have a waterfront property! Yes, we will “own” a piece of the creek that runs behind our house. My dreams have been realized.

Are you laughing with me? A younger me once wished to have an oceanfront home, though I changed my mind after I discovered sunlight made me ill. Who knew the sun could make some people sick? (Lupus.) Since then, my husband and I have joked about the ponds on our farm in Kentucky, but this creek that has a real name brings me happiness. When it rains, the creek swells and turns rather violent. Thankfully, our house is a long ways up the hill, so I can hear the rush and roar of the three waterfalls. One will be ours, but who can own water, truly?

It’s easy to have a sense of wonder as a child.

We are blessed to have Hunner’s Creek, and we love hearing the neighbor’s kids enjoying the water as much as our own kids did when they were younger. My husband thinned out a few trees, so we can see the small waterfall from our back porch. I like knowing another generation is as mesmerized by a creek just as I was when I was about ten or twelve. My friends and I would play in the large forest that had a small creek running through it, and we were lucky that it ran past our back yard.

My daughter who is getting married next summer wants “her” ornaments. I’ve come to love them, but I’ve kept them safe all these years. It’s time to relinquish them.

A strange thing happened years ago when I drove past that old house where I spent so many days climbing the tall trees, and I found that forest had grown smaller. Much smaller than I recalled, and I had to laugh at the way children can turn something small and not very impressive into a magnificent world. What if we did that now? If we marveled over the cookies our neighbor brings to us each year, and instead of noticing that the array of cookies has shrunk over time, we could enjoy her mint brownies with the green icing? If we looked at the lights people have lit up outdoors in defiance of the darkness of 2020? If we wondered at so many neighbors joined in solidarity against the nights the swoop in early and linger too long?

An early snow changes the dull brown to a world full of wonder and light.

We light out world in unison, in solidarity, and turn our backs to the uncertainty of this world, and it brings smiles to so many. I look at the Christmas tree that looked large at the store, and no, it was not the grocery store this year. I went to Home Depot, and that Fraser Fir looks small. I thought about it over coffee one morning and realized the higher ceilings in this new house, along with the larger rooms mean we have to bring in a larger tree. So, next year we are going to cut down one of the cedars that grows so easily in the poorer soil of Kentucky!

Just watch, though. I think we will wind up bringing in a tree that is far too wide. Which brings me to a story. One December I had just given brith to our third child, so I asked my husband to take the car and find a tree with the girls. They were eight and five and eager to pick out the perfect tree. Did I mention that we had just moved to a larger house with a two story ceiling, so when I noticed a tree covering a car driving up our road I wondered. My husband had tied a huge tree to the top of the car, and how he managed to see the way home was a marvel. The tree they chose covered the front and back. All anyone could see was a tree on wheels. Seriously.

A vintage ornament nestled next to one with glitter made by one of my kids long, long ago.

My proud husband and excited daughters brought in that monstrosity that would be our Christmas tree, only the bottom had to be cut off quite a bit and then the top of the tree had to be tied to the bannister going up the stairs to the bedrooms. I could hang ornaments only as far as my arms could reach, so the tree had bare patches higher up. But the kids were thoroughly enchanted with “their” tree. They had chosen it and watched their father chop it down. It might not have made the pages of any home decor magazine, but it made for a memory. We still laugh about that Christmas tree, so this year’s spindly one (for a second year in a row, because it took me that long to figure out the issue) will be enjoyed.

It’s the small things that bring happiness, as long as we’re willing to feel it. To take this time and snuggle under a blanket, maybe in front of a warming fire or one outside, and turn off all the lights except for the tree and watch a holiday film. To send out a few cards to friends this year. To buy someone a cup of coffee just because. To sing out loud. To really look at the ornaments on your tree and enjoy your favorites. I still go out in the cold and listen to the creek. I’m thankful for heat, for candles, for my family. I’m thankful for all the old Christmas carols that I sing in the car. Thankful for tinted car windows too.

An “ugly” ornament from my mom’s 1970’s collection. It’s growing on me. Might be a collector’s item one day.

In the waning days of a tiring year, can we find the wonder? Can we enjoy a different Christmas? We’re having ours on Christmas Eve, since one of my kids has to work at the hospital on Christmas Day. I’m looking forward to watching movies that I like on the actual day itself. And no cooking! Nope. We’re getting Chinese. I’ll be wishing and praying for a thick snow to fall and make the world look beautiful, but even if it’s drab and grey, we still can feel happy. We’ve made it this far. I think we can wander into 2021 with hope. Wonder. And happiness.

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

Until next time,

Deanna