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

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