The “Christmas Trees For Sale” sign in the store front window caught my attention. Fresh pine scent, the friendly “howdy” greeting, footsteps on the squeaky wood-planked floor, and the jingle of the door bells as I enter and close the door into the little gift shop … each liven my senses … bring me to back when. A little pony-tailed blonde-haired girl. Cannot wait for the holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years. But all the events leading to those wonder-filled holidays. Baking, decorating, crafting, wrapping, and for me living on a tree farm, setting up the pine trees to sell. Always Thanksgiving weekend my Dad and Grandpa brought in a truck and trailer overflowed with fresh cut Christmas trees. Scotch pine, white pine, and spruce trees planted, trimmed, and cared for by Dad, and any family members looking for some extra $$ pitched in. My siblings and I included. We would play hide-n-seek in the pile of cut trees until there were no more to set-up. Snow, ice, or rain, it did not matter. Wholesome fun. We had the time of our lives back when.
A weekend away in Branson, Missouri for early Christmas shopping and a membership inquiry with a vacation club for more of these empty nest long weekends and longer week dream vacations. Dean and I are local shoppers, whether in our home town of St. Charles, Missouri or while on vacation. There is something down-to-earth about brick & mortar and mom & pop shops. Branson has the downtown landing and tourist attractions, but take us where the locals shop, eat, and play, please! Nostalgic Dicks 5 & 10, Main Street Flea Market, the Classy Flea, and the Farmhouse Restaurant … Back when the Nativity was in every shop, home, and city hall. The holidays included real pine rope trimmings with bright red velvet bow wreaths and pine cones. Back when that fresh field-cut Charlie Brown tree was dressed with hand-sewn ornaments, Shiny Brite glass balls, and a collection of heirloom from Germany or England, wherever your family originated from. Back when home-baked breads were served at every meal with a home-jarred fruit preserves, and your favorite sugar cookies piled on a plate or in a large jar for the eating any time. But not too close to your mother’s or grandmother’s home-cooked dinner, “not to spoil your appetite”. The house smelled of a fresh pot of chicken & dumplings. I imagine my father’s Christmases in the 1940’s. Filled with joy to have his father, my Grandpa Earl back home from the war. Grandma Anna doting over the menu preparations. Two or three simply wrapped presents with his name “Marty” on the tags under the tinseled Christmas tree. Back when is close to my heart at this present moment in the guest bedroom of our 1940’s house. My family has been blessed with fond memories and we will make more.
What makes leaves turn different colors in autumn? According to the College of Environmental Science and Forestry: http://www.esf.edu/pubprog/brochure/leaves/leaves.htm … “During the spring and summer the leaves have served as factories where most of the foods necessary for the tree’s growth are manufactured. This food-making process takes place in the leaf in numerous cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. This extraordinary chemical absorbs from sunlight the energy that is used in transforming carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch. Along with the green pigment are yellow to orange pigments, carotenes and xanthophyll pigments which, for example, give the orange color to a carrot. Most of the year these colors are masked by great amounts of green coloring. Chlorophyll breaks down. But in the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.”
So there is the scientific explanation for the color changes in a leaf. I have a seasonal love that by-passes all the science stuff … oh, autumn! These cooler days and color-bursting leaves bring me outdoors at every opportunity. This past Saturday Dean and I watched bright orange pumpkins drop from the blue sky while small engine and military war planes whirl above with the leaves and birds. Sunday afternoon gave us another chance to enjoy the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows at Boone Hollow Farm while picking the last of our ripened cherry tomatoes and all the green tomatoes still on the vines which succumbed to the first killing frost this past week. This Monday’s lunch hour was spent walking at the park relishing more color and sunshine. Tuesday promises even more golden sunshine and warmth. And on a rainy, colder Wednesday the trick or treaters will come out in their costumes. Some will be dressed in black and gruesome red, black, and green makeup, but I particularly like the happy get-ups in bright colors and smiles. Our 2-year old granddaughter, Elise is dressed as a monarch butterfly!
I took my antihistamine this morning as advised by my allergist. When the temperatures get under 50, that is when my cold-allergy symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, and joint aches start up. This was the 2nd morning in a row for more autumn-like weather, and today a cold rain to boot. Feeling a little edgy at the office, I needed to get outside, rain or not at my lunch break. I bundle myself in my rain jacket, already in jeans and boots this casual Friday. My long 4-block stroll in the autumn rain was delightfully quiet. The outdoors, “mother nature” calms me. Things do not seem so big anymore in the vastness of the sky and trees. I warmed up with a cup of hot tea when back at my desk.
My Minnesota friends have had the white fluffy stuff this week. Last weekend in Kansas City, a cold rain pretty much non-stop for 2 days. On the east side of Missouri the cold front finally came. We went from August to November weather conditions in 2 days. Our tomato plants situated in a screen house in rural St. Charles County may experience their first frost tonight. This weekend’s visit to the farm will probably include picking green tomatoes, and next week preparing green tomato preserves. I have housed my perennials and tropical plants in the house, basement, or garage for the next 5 or 6 months.
Autumn Rain by Gerry Legister
When we see summer changes
The clothes we wear quickly disappear,
And the next season rearranges
Clouds more fastidious in the atmosphere.
The fall is here; it means a new challenge
For our clothes, shoes and hair
From the warmth of summer to darker rage
Autumn quietly drifts in unaware.
Let the autumn rain fall upon you,
Let the autumn rain beat upon the trees
Until the leaves fall down and become new.
Let the autumn season fondly release
The changes that time replicates
Shadows on the floor and rain in the air,
With pools of water running off the trees
And wash down into the gutter.
Let the rain fall softly while you sleep
And make the rhythm night beat
With a lullaby playing upon the housetop,
A note of intrigue to adorn the light.
When pools of water from the sidewalk
Splash upon you with quick surprise,
It makes you walk with a watermark
To stain the perfect spot on our tresses.
“There are some things we can never really possess; we simply take our brief turn at tending them,” writes author Dominique Browning about relationships, homes, and gardens. Our children are with us for a short time. Then gone from our homes tending to own adventures in life. Remember they belong to our heavenly Father from conception on. Our homes whether you reside for 5 or 50 years are molded to suit your needs. Then you move to establish another residence elsewhere based on new needs and desires, and for some people multiple times in your lifetime. “Summer set lip to earth’s bosom bare, and left the flushed print in a poppy there,” poet Francis Thompson writes. Gardens differ from the voluntary poppy blooming on the lakeside, a potted geranium, trays of microgreens, elaborate rows of organic beans in raised beds, to the caged tomato plants. All tended with care by the gardener and mother nature.
Jane Lewis’ song Tend Me Like a Garden defines “tending” well …
I wish you would tend me like I was a garden. Start me from scratch, babe, right from seed. You could plant me with your bare hands in the springtime. And bring me water whenever I had the need. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain. I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away. Oh won’t you take me into your garden. Lie with me on this fertile ground. I will feed you with my body. And bathe you in the sunshine coming down. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain. I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away. I will love you through all of the seasons. I’ll weather what the fall and summer bring. I may lie fallow in the winter. But I swear that I’ll remember you in spring. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain. I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away I swear that I’ll remember you…
What relationship in your life needs tending today?
I counted a least two dozen winged trinkets and framed pictures on the shelves, mantel, and walls of both of our homes. Mini birdhouses, feeders, nests, a sparkly snow bird and a reindeer (they fly!), angels, blue willow dishes, and an artist’s portrait of a peasant young woman cradling a wounded sea gull decorate my home. These creatures bring life and represent my love of sacredness and nature … the green life of plants, trees, bushes, vines, and flowers as well as their winged friends. Eagles, owls, ducks, swans, gulls, wrens, finches, hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies are what I am attracted to during my walks besides the flowers and trees along the way. And those angelic beings are protecting my loved ones and I.
Our Midnight. Midnight was the extended Bates and Gall family pet and everyone’s friend. His vivacious, contagious spirit made you laugh and love life. Midnight loved his Dean, and the special attention Dean gave him. He loved people. He loved our kids and grandkids, “his kids”. He loved the many friends and family who visited our home. Whined and cried with happiness when any one came to visit “him”, of course. He loved his Elisabeth, stayed at her side after every chemo treatment until she was back on her feet. He loved the morning ritual of seeing Libby and Brendan onto the school bus. He loved crockpot dinner and Chinese carry-out nights. He loved his evening walks especially those that included a DQ ice cream cup. He loved going out to “the farm”. Midnight loved lakes and creeks, and chasing after all the waterfowl that lived in them. But he hated thunderstorms. Major anxiety raced his pounding heart except oddly for those he embraced outside. One of my fondest memories was being on the boat dock of cabin #2 at Valhalla Resort on Island Lake in Minnesota. The thunderheads rolled in above the lake so abruptly like the cap-size waves that July evening. Midnight and I faced the storm together while missing our Dad who passed away too soon to enjoy that evening with us. We ran together for shelter once the lightning strikes began. And that story reminds me of the time Dean, Midnight, and I ran for the shelter from a tornado overhead while at the farm and greenhouse. The whirling winds rocked our van just inches from the creek. I think all three of us had a few more gray hairs after that adventure!
Our Midnight passed away on Monday, June 11. And yes, this is our Midnight’s eulogy. Our 13-1/2 year old Labrador-flat coat retriever mix was 115 years old in human years. It came suddenly, the vet said his body gave way to old age. Midnight lived and loved 5 generations of the Bates/Gall family. He was given to my Grandpa Earl and Grandma Paula as a Christmas gift in 2004. Puppy love with huge paws. Grew into a 90-lb adult dog, too much for my elderly grandparents to handle. In turn my Dad adopted Midnight, trained him to be an excellent waterfowl retriever. This pet came to live at the 99 Jane house with Dean and I after my father passed away 5-1/2 years ago. Sometimes a crowded house, but always had room for our Midnight. For a few days Midnight lived with Dean’s parents when we all were displaced from our home after the main water line flood. One night our dog stayed with a kind family after he wandered off through an unlatched gate, no thanks to the contractor during our house addition. Oddly enough, this family lived one field over from where I grew up on the tree farm in St. Peters. Our handsome Midnight had been dubbed “Nerm” and “Hercules”, and I cannot explain why. Our easygoing dog co-existed with 5 different house cats during his time with us. Beyond tolerable, he was sociable to his feline companions especially during the late evening cat treat time all gathered in Dean and I’s bedroom every night. He made a few doggy friends … Nasa, Mokie, Jesse, Bleu, Beatrice, Barry, Daisy, Gus, Molly, Parker, Roman, another Molly, Shawnee, Peyton, Ellie, Eddie, Max … learned to accept or avoid the young whipper-snappers as he became an old man dog.
Midnight is greatly missed, our hearts feel an emptiness yet privileged to have known him and feel his love. Our Midnight. We will always love you.
Spring finally arrived but transitioned into summer within days. 80 and even 90 temps have come quickly after such a long winter. I have not put in my vegetable and herb garden yet. Yes, I know. A sense of guilt for the early crop of greens I missed. But the garden will get planted. It has been one cold spell after another, one distraction after another, and one rainy day after another.
We brought the perennials outside yesterday. Some survived the winter in the semi-heated garage, and others did not. After a good soaking last night, my potted greenery seems to relish the mild outdoor air and misty morning rain this Sunday. My arrowhead plant has taken a beating from the baby kitten newly adopted. “Little WeeWot”, I dubbed him, who likes to hop from the tall ceramic pot up onto the buffet where he has full view of the kitchen. He even lays on the arrowhead plant to nap. The arrowhead plant is now housed next to the porch under the Japanese red maple. Such a pleasant sight this morning to see its branches perked up looking for the sunlight on this overcast day. Hopefully, just the song birds perch on the potted plant.
This spring has been a different season. I see my plants tell my story, my life. Gone with the dead, on with the living. Browns and grays have passed away. Green and vivacious colors reign again. Flowers of red, purple, blues, and yellow spring forth and fill the pots overflowing. Relationships renew. Love lavishly wins. Always.
April 8, today is my youngest grandson, Eli’s birthday! A big eight-year old! I cannot remember what the temps were that day. Dean and I were engaged, making plans for our July wedding, and visited Rachel and our new grandson, Eli at the hospital. Another miracle baby, conception and the life he lived inside his mother. God has a plan for his life. A mighty good one indeed.
What did the pastor talk about today? “Faith…the evidence of things not seen…” The weather has been up and down, up and down for weeks now. The spring equinox came, but little evidence is seen. The daffodils bring their burst of yellows more than the sun does these April days. Wild violets creep between autumn remnants, and the stifled buds keep closed. A tinge of green appears in some of the trees. But snow in the forecast once again today! We need some more sunny, warm days for the plant life to sing “hallelujah”. I cannot wait.
I am so behind on the garden. It has been too cold, or too wet to get to the greenhouse even in the Jeep. Last year we had arugula coming up by late March. Yesterday was a sunny, but crisp Saturday. We worked clearing brush at Boone Hollow Farm after the temps got above freezing. And we dumped some more organic soil in the vegetable and herb bed, worked it in. Maybe next week, we can sow our leaf lettuce, peas, and beets? Faith … I can almost taste those roasted beets fresh from the oven!
The sun wants to come out to play, but the gray clouds hold the sunshine back. Glimpses of yellow daffodils appeared a day ago, but today they keep their heads covered as the veil of cold conceals them. At dusk snow flakes mutter winter’s last moan. What happened to yesterday’s rain showers and thunderstorm? Is Spring hiding?
I long for green spaces … growth.
Water overflowing into vessels
Streams wash the earth … renew.
Springtime green comes to stay,
Spring rains shower, drip, drip.
Puddles of water to run through
Soaking each toe … anointing.
I long for green spaces … growth.