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

Buffeted by the wind…

Capturing this autumn’s beauty has been a small challenge, because this year half the leaves fell in a very wild thunderstorm, and since then we’ve been mired under grey, sodden skies and I’m trying to give you a taste of autumn in Kentucky and at our home in very southern Ohio. As autumn 2020 progresses, does it sometimes feel like the world is a bit out of control? The UK went into another lockdown, which made me feel very sad for them, and I think we’re all preparing for the unknown, though this time we’ve stockpiled toilet paper and hand sanitizer, right?

A rare sunny day…

On this side of the pond, many are looking forward to next spring and summer. I took a stroll around my neighborhood before trick or treating started, and I chatted with a neighbor whose daughter is getting married in a vineyard next year. My own daughter is marrying next summer, and it fills us with happiness. Looking forward to an event is different now. Before we had tickets to see plays at two theaters downtown, and dinners with friends. We had planned on hosting several dinners at our new home to make them feel welcome and loved, but most of the visiting, the weddings, baby showers or even going to church just stopped.

A wee little pumpkin to watch over my lavender plants.

How do we handle Thanksgiving this year? Should a big family gathering be tucked away until next year? Do we make certain our elderly parents or grandparents stay safely away, or is it wrong to drain their calendars of these pleasures? I think we’re all glancing at the calendar toward Christmas and thinking of how to enjoy the festive season safely. I told my husband that I only wanted to put up three trees this year (I honestly normally have six or seven fully decorated trees, with one being a real Fraser fir.) A subdued season seems in order for us. What about you?

Willie enjoying the warmth of the sun, so slanted by late October.

How do we grab slices of happiness and find the beauty in these days of troubling news? Election fears. The pandemic causing so many businesses to close forever, and when will this end? Missing meeting up with our family and friends, both close by and far away. Vacation plans shuttled away until 2021, where we hope life with be normal and raucous, full of fun and joy and freedom. Until then though we do have choices. We almost always have the choice of looking at our situation in the best light possible. How so?

My neighborhood. That sky was made to be admired, and I did. All the way home.

Starting when you wake up, take a moment to stretch and think about what your day holds, and if it’s mainly work, try to fit in some time to get outside. Fresh air, even in misty, rainy, drizzly nights is worth it. Head out for even ten minutes and find something beautiful to gaze at. Even when that thunderstorm we had ripped half the beautiful hued leaves from their tenuous hold on their branches, I opened the door to the back porch just to hear the rain lashing the trees, and hear thunder rolling eastward.

Coffee in my new autumn themed mug makes me smile, no matter the hour.

If we’re forced to be indoors again more than we like, books and films are lovely companions. Are you lucky enough to have a piano or guitar in your place? Maybe it’s time to teach yourself how to be musical. Yes, I see the images of the celebrities who have chosen drastic weight loss or new plastic surgery during this pandemic, but what fun is not eating when we have the time to knead bread dough, slowly, almost sensuously by hand, and then not eat a slice slathered in butter? We don’t need an exercise in punishment or too much denial. We need to enjoy the ebb and flow of our days as they come to us.

For one fine hour, this orange tree shared her beauty with the sunset after a weekend of grey skies filled with rain.

We need to summon the patience we all have inside us, so when se do interact with the world, we can be kind and pleasant. My husband and I decided to hand out full size candy to whoever wanted some treats last night, and we brought down some whiskey and tumblers with us. Adult treats were needed to fortify ourselves against the chill. We offered a wee dram of whiskey to the parents taking their kids out, and we met so many of our neighbors in the back of the subdivision.

They laughed at the surprise treat, and called out “Cheers!” to us as we all took large sips together. The kids were plenty busy choosing the perfect candy bar, and suddenly trick or treat had turned into a meet and greet. I saw friends from at least a mile away, and we caught up as the full moon rose up behind the bare arms of the trees in my yard. We were socially distanced, used plastic cups for the neighbors and even in 2020, we decided to make a night of fun.

Well, look. I did have a candy bar with my scotch! Caught me.
On an old table I found for a future project, we started to set up our treats. No tricks allowed.

I took a walk through the streets before the trick or treating began, and while some streets had fire pits full of wood, just ready to be lit at 6:00, with chairs and tables and candy at the ready, I was actually shocked at the number of older folks (meaning my age) who closed up their homes and turned out the lights. Just a few years ago they welcomed the kids, because their own children were begging for candy, but it made me sad to see them turn into “those” old people, who were willing to spread fun and happiness just for a time that suited them.

Why not be those older folks who make the world more joyous? Just set out a bowl of candy. The kids know what to do. Are my neighbors too poor for this? Don’t make me laugh. On my old street we’d all sit on our porches and yell out to one another, and on the warm years, we would visit and watch for the kids making their way down our street. This is what I mean by spreading happiness. It makes us feel good. Yeah, maybe it’s easier to curl up with Ben and Jerry’s (again) and watch Halloween (again), rather than wearing masks (for Covid 19 this time), sitting far from the proffered candy bars, and washing hands when it was time to head back inside, but where’s the beauty in hiding away? Turn on a light and fill a bowl with beautiful, yummy treats!

Enjoying the sent of a new candle on a chilly evening.

When I write about spreading warmth, I’m saying let’s make Thanksgiving about so much more than stuffing ourselves into a coma. Let’s tell our family or our dog what we are thankful for this year. Let’s not be so scared of the pandemic, and I understand since I have a compromised immune system, but let’s grab the rest of 2020 and make it good. Make your Christmas beautiful. Knit, bake, sing carols and enjoy the quiet this year offers us. We can have a Black Friday showdown and shove others out of our way next year. (Kidding. I don’t go near a store on Black Friday. Never!)

Dreaming of our scheduled trip to Scotland in front of a warm fire.

This year is holding our her hands, hoping you’ll find some beauty in the changes. Let’s enjoy this. Even the small things like the scent of a burning candle. A child’s delight at getting candy for free! Being thankful for food on our tables, and sending food to the pantries where others will make a Thanksgiving dinner from what we share. Let’s be lavish. On them. Makes you feel warm inside, doesn’t it? Maybe 2020 is teaching us some beautiful lessons after all.

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

Until next time,

Deanna