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

Sweet September Blue…

Night sweeps in earlier each evening, and the sudden change to a chilly house in the mornings is a surprise to me. September is usually still a warm month here, but it won’t be for the next ten days or so I’ve read. I decided to embrace autumn, stockpiling autumn candles that remind me of the woods ablaze with color, when only the pine trees kept their steadfast green. I miss the woods up north at this time of year, but trips aren’t really in vogue these days, so I’ll stay where some trees are shrugging off their dusty, too dry leaves, knowing others won’t turn vermillion until November.

I’m nostalgic for the days when every leaf changed at the same moment. That doesn’t happen here, so I create autumn in my home and my heart. Today I found the largest potted orange mums I have ever seen and bought them right away, adding some cute pumpkins with tall, thin stems that will look nice on the porch. I’m not ready to give into fall completely, and I adore those brave crickets who manage to stave off the frosts and live to tell their stories until November.

A cozy outdoor fire at our Kentucky farm last weekend…

Are there rules to September? Am I allowed to sleep with the windows open, only to turn on the furnace in the morning? Just for a half-hour. I savor each season as it’s handed out, which is so unlike my impetuous and impatient youth, where I waded through autumn and winter as if they were to be endured and not enjoyed. Not so now. Even those long January nights can carry warmth, love and laughter.

So I’m pulling you with me, into opening your eyes to the feast laid before us, or the one to come. Yes, the sun slips lower now, but that sweet September blue is back, and oh how the white wisps of clouds look perfectly content to sail high in the sky now that the haze has diminished. I know. It’s permanently hazy in the West, and I don’t want to hear of a hurricane. I need to know why the west is burning and can we please make it stop? The last time I was in the Northwest fires blazed, and none of us saw the mountains surrounding us. They stayed obscured, and I felt like I walked through apocalyptic days with the sun barely penetrating the daylight gloom.

Having fun playing with my candles at our Ohio home…

We can find happiness even then. Maybe not outdoors, but maybe so. I never saw the mountains on that trip, but I marveled at the gorgeous gardens, the homes built on hilltops, the thrumming of the Native Americans in the evenings just across the bay, and the shops that welcomed me as I made my way across the main streets. And did you know I stumbled across the most magical thing there? A tiny library for free. It was a very little cupboard on a post, telling people to take a book or leave one to share.

If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. Books. I love words and the way authors place them perfectly into sentences that haunt me for years. Words flavor my life, and I carry some books, read long ago, in my heart forever. Seeing that perfect little invitation to take a book, and right next to the most beautiful garden perched against a simple, humble one-story home tells me magic exists anywhere. We just have to look for it.

Placing my weekly dose of flowers in the kitchen, where we all can enjoy them…

Even in this season of smoke. Even when the weather is much cooler than anticipated. Even when a hurricane brings too much rain. Especially then, don’t you think? We can find pockets of pretty in the middle of almost anything. Every sport under the sun is being played at the same time, after months of nothing, to the point where we watched two people playing corn hole on ESPN. Now we have a feast, and isn’t it fun? I love football, baseball and basketball, but my hockey-long family is gorging on that. Every sport is trying to make it work, and I am mesmerized at how resourceful we humans can be when hard pressed!

Sweet sunset evenings in the country, after visiting the neighbor’s horses…

One summer when I lived up north in a place called Wauwatosa, I spent much of my spare time painting the trim around the windows of our bungalow. One day I decided to have rice for lunch, so I set it to simmer when I spied the paint and paintbrush waiting for me by the kitchen’s back door. I picked up my toddler and took her outside to play while I methodically applied brilliant white paint to the freshly scraped wood trim.

While I perched precariously on that ladder, I heard the somewhat far off sound of a car alarm or siren of some sort. After five minutes or so of the relentless siren’s scream, I wondered if the source might be coming from inside my house. Was I ever shocked to discover the kitchen smoke alarm blaring as smoke billowed from the pot of rice! My self-diagnosed ADD had kicked in, and I had forgotten all about that rice. I had been in such a hurry to finish the painting, because September had arrived and I knew the number of warm days were winding down. Rain and cold typically took over by the end of that month.

Seeded eucalyptus and a baby pumpkin…

I spent that gorgeous afternoon opening every window, turning on the fans not yet placed in storage, and I scrubbed the pot until I realized I had no choice but to throw it out. In the evening when my husband came home, he walked in the door and started laughing. “Burnt rice again?” was all he said, and I shamefully nodded my head yes. It’s family lore now, all the times I forgot about the rice on the stove and scorched it instead. Finally, one day my husband bought me a rice cooker, and I’ve never burnt another pot of rice again. Just don’t ask about the time I forgot about the bacon. And I did.

September brings an urgency to complete so many outdoor tasks, and back then I spent my poorer days painting. Now it’s more about making sure we have wood stacked, and bulbs planted and leaves raked, but here I have until the end of October to finish. Somehow all the Septembers of my younger years have imprinted a more hurried approach, and any chance to be outside is refreshing and welcome.

A bouquet of September blooms and grasses…

I’m sending you our blue skies from the Midwest, the Ohio River Valley as they say here. Grab a fistful of flowers and bring them inside, burn those summer or autumn candles (inside, of course), hit up a movie at the drive-in, savor the simplicity of vanilla soft serve ice cream. Play your favorite music until it surrounds and imbues your mood. I always love The Boys of Summer and play it endlessly each autumn. Take care of you right now. Others always, but in the middle of everything or nothing, remember you matter. Find the beauty in you. It’s there. Then find the magic out there, waiting for you.

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

Until next time,

Deanna

Sweet September Surrender…

IMG_6988

I woke in time to witness the dawn, with the swirls of mist snaking through the low places on our land. The verdant green of the trees and swaying grasses play tricks on my mind, and I believe summer might last forever. On a lazy September weekend anything feels possible, so I pretend for a while that the sun beating down on our cabin/farmhouse (take your pick) is as strong as June sunlight, but I’m fooling myself. It’s time to wake up from daydreams and wishes and look this month straight in the eye.

IMG_6895.jpg

Give in to this beautiful month of what is technically still summer. Autumn will arrive, and then we can find our blankets and socks. But now is a wonderful time to hike without the scorching heat of summer swallowing you (hopefully). Take a bike ride or linger for a morning outside, drinking in the quiet, since many birds have left for their southern nesting grounds. I have a friend who naps on a cot on her back porch. Doesn’t that sound wonderfully indulgent?

IMG_6976.jpg

Do you see the school busses rambling around the roads, collecting children and think about the start of a new year? Does your heart catch for a minute, thinking you missed the bus? Only to realize those days live in another time and place? ┬áThis feels like the right time to begin anew. And we can, you and I. We can take stock of where we are, how far we’ve come since those rosy January resolutions, and adjust. Maybe you need to rest on a porch in the afternoon sun, with a blanket and book by your side, but only if you open your eyes long enough to see them. Maybe you need to work on that project you so wanted finished by the end of spring. Do it! Get it done! Time’s almost up…

IMG_6994.jpg

See that tree above? The oak? That is my favorite tree in the world. The new sun, slanting more each day, runs her fingers through the leaves, and I hope for plenty of acorns for the fawns and their mothers this fall. I have many favorite trees, just like all my kids are my favorites. I think it’s good to love something so much that you enjoy life that much more. Find your favorites, especially going into the turn of the year. Take time to love this time in your life. The hard times and the good… Give in to it. Accept. Surrender.

IMG_6937.jpg

We have so much to learn, and if we only had good times, then we’d never learn how to find the beauty in the middle of a cubicle on a Monday morning. Right now there is so much beauty everywhere you turn your head. The farmer’s market, and the grocery stores both hold new tomatoes, zucchini and yes, mini pumpkins. Grab one for your apartment and celebrate. Hold this time close to you. Go about your work, but open the door and marvel at the sunset. I do that so many nights, saying good-bye to this day before welcoming the next.

IMG_6975.jpg

Surrender to September. That beautiful month of transition. And enjoy this day.

IMG_6983.jpg

Our pool closes this weekend and I want to take a dip before the preschoolers stake their claim. Early morning might be best. So while I take one last summer swim, why don’t you say bye to your summer in your way and enjoy it? ┬áTake time away from studying, working, cleaning and whatnot, and enjoy the beauty of a September sun. Be happy. Find beauty. Until next time…

IMG_6933.jpg

(My dream home just north of Seattle.) Hey, a girl’s gotta dream!

Summer’s Slow Farewell…

 

IMG_6744.jpg

I recently learned the word, gloaming, and that’s my favorite part of my day. Gloaming, twilight, and dusk. The words themselves are full and beautiful. Don’t we love lingering over a glass of wine in the warm embrace of a summer’s night when the sky is tangled with too many subtle colorings to count? Part of me feels like summer is waving good-bye, but really, she’s not. Not yet. Not here. It’s the t.v ads that talk of pumpkin spice’s return, but it’s 90 degrees now and I won’t be placing a sweater around my shoulders until the nights dip into the chilly 50’s. Then I’ll know.

IMG_6748.jpg

I’ll know summer has headed south, and by then I’ll be ready for coziness, candles, my homemade pumpkin bread and yes, pumpkin spice craziness. I adore the way Americans can make a celebration out of the smallest thing. Autumn is here, the school busses are brimming with kids heading off to learn something, hopefully, and our hearts droop a bit, but hey! Bring on the pumpkin spice lattes and burn a new candle named Pumpkin Moonbeams and it’s a party!

IMG_6742.jpg

This is the sky, in the gloaming. The perfect balance between pink and blue is found by lifting our eyes skyward. This nightly show is better than seeing every piece of priceless art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Take time out of your crazy day or your lonely day and go outside for a minute. Sure, your neighbors might wonder what you’re doing, standing on the stoop, gazing skyward, but you can keep secrets and smile at them as they amble forward on a pleasant walk. You’re witnessing the change in the sky as we move from August to September. You’re celebrating the end of this day, because you made it. You’re still here.

IMG_6743-1.jpg

And you’re here for a purpose. Big or small, we all have reasons for being on earth. Even on those days when we face Facebook and look at the parties and smiles and gatherings and feel uninvited and for a minute, perhaps, unloved, even then, we need to remember that it’s no accident that brought us to today. This evening, whether filled with gentle breezes in the dusk or stormy skies brimful of lightning, is important. Why? Because after the dishes are washed, the cat is fed and we finally sit down (or on days when the bed has been our home and we finally walk out to grab the mail, still in sweats with no makeup on), we can breathe in our purpose. Our meaning. And why God dropped us here. Now. In the waning days of August. 2018. Find your purpose.

 

IMG_6747

Find the beauty in this day. On the drive to work look for a stunning house or a beguiling road. At lunch, take time to taste your food. Enjoy it. Even if it is a PB&J sandwich. Read inspiring stories on Reddit. Step out into the dusk or the dawn, knowing you matter. You make the world a better place. And then go and make it better!

Kindness and patience should be spread liberally through your day. Is the barista slow? Tap into your well of patience, and yes, it’s there… Then tip him and smile and make his day better, as you grab your cold brew. Talk to the lonely octogenarian in the grocery store while you wait, patiently, again!, for your deli order. Reach out to your neighbor. Witness the wonder of an August day slipping into September. Smile as you gaze at storm clouds. (I love, love a good thunderstorm.) Make this world beautiful. And you have a head start because you. are. beautiful…

IMG_6738

Above? The vividly green view from my writing desk. So beautiful. Hey, I’ll see you in September. I’m heading to the farm, so I’ll have lots of pics and maybe even one of the horse who runs free on our street down there. This is an incredible world, isn’t it? Enjoy yours, and tell me what’s beautiful in your space. I really want to know. Thanks!