Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saying Goodnight

The pond last May.

I have been out saying goodnight to the day. The rain is gone, the sun will be out just long enough to set, and the evening air is heady with the scent of lilac and lily of the valley. The whole world turned green overnight it seems; every tree wears a full crown of leaves that the slightest breeze sets whispering. Freshly plowed ground at the nearby farm is dark from the rain that fell all day and smells rich and brown and earthy.

A robin takes a bath in a roadside puddle, dipping its head under the water and enthusiastically splashing water over its wings, chirping the whole time as if singing in the shower. I hear the song of the Baltimore oriole but I don’t catch a glimpse of it. Swallows swoop and dive over the pond and my footsteps startle something at water’s edge. There’s a heavy splash and a ring of wavelets; perhaps it’s the otter that lives along the bank or one of a pair of muskrats that I often see swimming in the evening. Red-winged blackbirds chitter overhead and a goldfinch whistles at me.

I have forgotten my camera so I take mental snapshots of the pond in the melting light, of the trees staring at their reflections in the water, of the birds that flit and flutter. Sunrise and sunset encase another day. I would send the peace of this one out into the world.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Morning

The suit was aqua, the hat dyed to match.

In the 1950s of my childhood, Sunday morning saw me dressed for church in my Sunday best - always a dress, my good shoes (as opposed to my school or play shoes) and a hat. In the early fifties, I wore white cotton gloves as well, with decorative top stitching and pearl buttons at the cuffs. I carried a small purse with room for a handkerchief (an embroidered one for Sundays) in case my nose did anything as indelicate as drip, and a bobby pin or two for anchoring my wayward hair. Mass was in Latin so I understood very little of what was said, but I liked listening to the choir and I loved the whole atmosphere of ritual and pomp. To a small, sensitive girl the concepts of religion meant little; it was the ceremonial aspect of it that I looked forward to, that and the fashions, the hats, the hairstyles and the music. Those small pleasures followed me into my growing up years when I wore nylons and heels, lovely suits chosen just for Sunday wear, and the required hat or later, a lace mantilla.

I've long since given up church on Sunday mornings, or any other time. I no longer put on pantyhose and high heels, eschew hats in all but the coldest weather, and own only two dresses, neither of which see much wear, but I still love Sunday mornings and the small rituals I've created on my own to celebrate with gratitude and appreciation all that I have. Early this morning, for instance, I set out the cushions on my lawn glider and sat with my head against the pillows, eyes closed, to listen to the birds sing glory to the morning. When my eyes opened they were assailed by every shade of green there is—the deep green of the maple leaf, the brilliant green of grass, the khaki green of the towering pines, the yellow green of the forsythia, now finished with its froth of buttery flowers. The sky arched blue and cloudless over the earth like the painted ceiling of a giant cathedral. All around me the trees nodded their massive heads in reverence and the sun splashed in stained glass colors on the lingering dew.

I am lucky to live in an enchanted place surrounded by woods and wide lawns, a broad sweep of pond water that reflects the trees and clouds, and where the sun sets in brilliant shades of crimson and mauve. I've been in cathedrals here and abroad and as beautiful as they were, none compared in my eyes to the forest cathedrals of my native New England, or to the majesty of the mountains that surround my home, or to the wild, windy west coast where my son and sisters live.

I no longer limit my beliefs to an entity that I could never quite believe in even as a child. Now my belief system is as wide open as the sea and as restless, subject to change though not to whim, and so much more satisfying now that it isn't rigid and stultifying. I no longer dress up and enter a building specified for worship. Instead I take in all that I can, let it wash through me, and sigh with reverence for all that I don't understand but can appreciate all the same, things like birdsong, and brilliant colors, for eyes to see and ears to hear, and a mind that still questions.

A cathedral of sunlit trees.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Catching Up

On a rainy day there's not much natural light at 4:30 a.m. I made a pot of tea by feel and sat near the window to drink the first scalding cup and watch the morning break. It's going to rain all day and straight through the night before stopping. I will have to wait until Saturday to work in the gardens but the air is mild and the birds are singing so I shan't complain.

The weeks continue to sail by in a flurry of travel and grandchild sitting and time here at the cottage. All the occasions I planned way back in the fall - a month with the older grands while their mom was away, a week in Florida with my daughter - and work here at the home place including the addition of two extra garden beds this spring and the renovation of my patio have come and gone, though work on the patio is not complete nor have I given the metal kitchen cabinets their final coat of paint. But the summer is young yet. And if I continue to wake at 4 in the morning, I will have plenty of time to accomplish the myriad tasks I've set for myself.

I've also been spending time in the past, constructing a book about cousins, gathering photos and memories from twelve disparate people that used to spend every childhood summer together. If you've ever been deluded into thinking that we all live in the same world, try asking someone who went through an event with you to describe it. Between the faultiness of our memories and the transference of our perceptions and prejudices, we remember everything so differently. Thankfully the book consists mainly of photographs so each of us can think of those days in our own unique way.

The leaves are fully fledged now, the wee, raucous house wren that built its nest in the lilac bush near the door is back, the daffodils have come and gone, and the lilacs are in bloom. I pick a handful of asparagus every three days and the rhubarb leaves are the size of elephant ears. The car still runs and so do I. All is well in my world.

Sunday, May 04, 2014


The rhubarb has doubled in size in a week.
The wind has been having a serious conversation with the trees all morning. I pulled my Garden Way cart across the bumpy ground to the huge pile of soil out behind the neighboring barn. On my way back to the garden, I stopped at the mound of composting manure from the chicken houses and added a few shovels. My garden beds are nearly ready for planting. Already the peas are up in one and the seed potatoes are buried in hills in another. Every weekend I haul a little more soil and compost to the remaining beds so I can plant the rest of the vegetables at the end of the month.

Oregano, chives and garlic are growing in the herb garden. Soon it will be warm enough to plant parsley and basil. They will season my breakfast eggs and other dishes all summer long. I cut my first asparagus stalks yesterday and tonight there will be fresh rhubarb sauce for dessert.

I am waiting for June to wash the curtains and the windows and screens. I have outdoor and indoor projects planned but they're all waiting on warmer weather. I want to be able to open the windows when I paint the kitchen cabinets and I need a few consecutive days of nice weather to dig up the patio stones and level the earth beneath.  Over the years the ground has settled. Guests sitting on the far side lean precariously toward the forsythia bushes.

The daffodils have been singing their yellow songs for two weeks now. The lily and phlox stems have pushed up through the cold earth in the patio garden and the rose bushes have sprouted tiny green leaves. Violets and bloodroot blossom side by side. On a few days it's been warm enough to eat out of doors at the patio table or to lounge in my outdoor swing. Today, however, it is overcast and the wind is chilly. The weatherman said we might experience thunderstorms with hail. It put me in mind of a Vermont neighbor who, as we sat huddled on bleachers in our winter coats one June watching our sons play baseball, said, "It's so cold that if it'd rain, it'd hail." Ayup.

Violets and bloodroot are blooming on the back slopes.