“Sitting inside the warm, pleasant kitchen while icy rain beat against the window, I felt the wordless contentment of a horse in a stable or a wren in a birdhouse,” author Gretchen Rubin wrote. I can so relate. And of course while in the kitchen I cooked and baked this long weekend. Some for Dean and I, and some for others needing an extra dose of love. “The people who give you their food, give you their heart,” Latino civil rights leader, Cesar Chavez once shared. “Cooking has nothing to do with the ingredients, but everything to do with love,” author Dominique Browning commented. I make-do with the ingredients in my well-stocked kitchen, but I beg to differ with Dominique that the right ingredients can make foods taste better. Muir Glen’s organic tomato sauce is the best for a rich red sauce contrasted with a from-scratch white sauce for spinach cannelloni. I happen to pick up a couple of cans last week. Of course, everything is done with love when it comes to cooking, even the acquiring of ingredients. That’s where my organic gardening comes in. Slow cooking, fresh, from-scratch and homemade reigns. “Through cooking, touching, feeling, preparing, and savoring good, real food made from real ingredients, I get to fully inhibit my kitchen; heal my body; connect with friends, family, the Earth, and the larger community where I live,” quoting Mark Hyman, MD. I had a fun weekend in my warm kitchen!
While the perennials are sheltered in the basement for two months now, the colder season will eventually show its true color. I anticipate white very soon. The holiday and winter season promises snow here in Missouri at some point. A white Christmas is what we sing about, but not always experienced. We have a 1 in 5 chance for the white fluffy stuff on Christmas Day. Dean and I experience the holiday lights and a “white-out” during an evening drive partaking in white snowman cookie and hot white chocolate from Starbucks. The white-out is fake snow, just simulating the real thing. I continue to take care for our perennials. Since I last wrote in this blog we welcomed a new white planter of lilies, mini roses, and a succulent sent as kind gesture as my mother passed away late in October. It is not doing so well in the living room, so I will move it under the plant lights downstairs. As I begin to address holiday cards I sing … “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, with every Christmas card I write, may your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmas’ be white …“ As with the magic of snow, I anticipate Jesus’ coming for this Advent season, showering of real blessings. The real deal, nothing fake about it.
The word “frost” came into the weathermen’s forecasts a couple of times last week. The late afternoon of October 1, Dean and I decided to move our perennials indoors while the colder air pushed its way into our town, but before a frost could lay its frozen fingers on our delicate green friends. We moved 20 planters of several varieties of ferns, lantana, lobelia, geraniums, swedish ivy, moses-in-cradle, philodendrons, and a Meyer’s lemon tree to the basement under a huge plant light on a timer. Two favorite perennial planters went upstairs in the house with us, along with 5 pots of herbs. It always amazes me how big the plants have grown over the past 6 months under mother nature’s care. Maybe I have a green thumb, but more so God blesses us with sunshine and rain at the right times. He reminds me when I can help with a watering can, pruning, and plucking the withered leaves and blooms. The frost finally gripped its frozen fingers on the cars, rooftops, and the earth very early this morning. But 27 pots of plants are snug and safe and sound in Deanna’s Cottage here in St. Charles, Missouri this autumn and winter seasons.
The cicadas have clicked and buzzed in harmony since late July. August came and went with floods at the beginning of the month and ended with a drought. Now it is September. It is the month that summer fades into autumn. The songbirds, swallow tail butterflies, and honeybees still gather at the fountain for a drink. For our feathered friends, it is also a communal bath. A refreshing rain cooled the air, and gave the thirsty earth a drink. My morning walks start a little later as the sun waits to come up as the moon slowly leaves the sky. There is a rustling with the flowering bushes and leaves in the trees when the wind shifts, some days blessed with the cooler northern air. Lush greens are giving way to hazel. Early autumn colors of yellow, orange, and red are seen. I gathered a handful of leaves to put in water as I walked home one morning. The evening stroll in the yard brought me to resilient blooms holding on until the first frost, or my snipping shears. The imperfect yet resilient petals show bug bites and drying tips, but still the hues brighten my September day. I am reminded of God’s promise, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” ~ Psalms 46:5
The summer rains woke me this morning. Typically, it is the sun peeking through the white curtains in our bedroom or the first tweets of our neighborhood birds that welcome me to the new day. The earth needed some fresh rain water in my spot of the world. And so it did just that, watered our flowers, plants, and grass to a vivid green. “Aw”, my green friends say. What a lovely, milder day of summer we had today.
My 3-mile power walk will need to wait until tomorrow. During our morning computer screen break between rains, Dean and I took a casual walk up the street to the newly opened coffee shop. A unique place, a coffee roaster situated in an old auto brake shop, Upshot Coffee Brake Shop. Dean treats himself to a cappuccino, and I to a herbal tea. I think this new establishment will be a once-in-awhile daytime perch for us during these mundane work-from-home arrangements, like it was today. Make it a special walk for a special moment in time.
My haven is home. So blessed during this stay-at-home order Dean and I have been given opportunity to care for our home and yard. Our home gives back so much more. And spring has been so pleasant this year, very much like spring should be. Sunshine, rains, a random storm brews up, cool mornings, and warmer afternoons. We had a couple of days it felt more like summer, but it cooled down after the rains. And then a few frost warning mornings, but it never came. Better safe than sorry, we covered our annuals and perennials. Kind of like the corona virus for us. We take the precautions: masks, social distancing, and extra sanitation in our home and when we are out.
These mild temperatures and regular watering from the rains has provided such a green haven of leaves, grasses, mosses, and foliage. Mid-spring the dogwood, azalea, clematis, irises and the flowering trees, bushes, and stemmed blooms are clothed in white or more showy colors of fuchsia, paler pinks, purples, blues, oranges, yellows, and reds. The peonies are exceptional this year. The song birds are plentiful. Their songs divine. The morning doves, robins, finches of purple and yellow, grosbeaks, cardinals, indigo buntings, nuthatches, and sparrows of many species come to our feeders and reside in the birdhouses or bushes. Hawks and owls call out throughout the day and night as their homes are nearby. Of course, families of squirrels and rabbits in the neighborhood are for the taking by these birds of prey. Occasionally, it is a morning dove for a meal.
Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest; Home-keeping hearts are happiest, For those that wander they know not where Are full of trouble and full of care; To stay at home is best. Weary and homesick and distressed, They wander east, they wander west, And are baffled and beaten and blown about By the winds of the wilderness of doubt; To stay at home is best. Then stay at home, my heart, and rest; The bird is safest in its nest; O’er all that flutter their wings and fly A hawk is hovering in the sky; To stay at home is best. Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The song birds at our feeders keep us entertained with their thankful chirps and chatter. The robins bob up and down listening for the worms. The cardinals’ color brighten Dean’s and I’s day. The yellow, purple, and house finches share and then bicker over perches. The word co-exist is familiar to many of us this present day. We are home together all day seven days a week now with these mandatory remote work settings. After a whole day of staying indoors that first day, Dean and I knew we needed to change it up. Fresh air and daily walks were needed to keep our sanity. Our bodies, minds, and spirits thanked us. We now take a stroll twice a day everyday. We see neighbors about, too. If we get into a spring rain, the drops are harmless. A cup of hot coffee for Dean and hot tea for me takes any chill out immediately. The spring season is in bloom every direction we walk. First the jonquils, daffodils, hyacinths, wild violets, and now tulips take bloom. The tulip and plum trees opened with the crab apple and pear trees closely after. Soon the cherry, red bud, and dogwood trees will be in full display. Nature’s canvas and neighbors’ garden art to admire. Our feathered and flowery friends, God’s creations teach us to take note, be present moment, co-exist, and share joy.
My Sunday morning pancake making came with a comic note from any neighbor’s perspective, I am sure. While Dean slept in I made my from-scratch pancakes using an overripe banana left in the fruit bowl. You know the saying, “waste not want not”. While cooking the pancakes, I checked the bird feeder. The song birds and squirrels have managed to empty the feeders in a matter of two days. It didn’t snow overnight, just cold and rainy this February morning. Well, those pesky squirrels are hanging all over the bird feeders and has the big one twisted open. I got our ammo out, the spray bottle of water and open the door to shoot at the squirrels. They hate it, yet will feed on the bird seeds in the rain! Maybe a BB gun would more effective, but may scare the neighbors.
As I spray a stream of water their way, the squirrels scatter. One goes around to the hide on the other side of the house and the other runs towards the street. In the corner of my eye I see a tumbleweed going into the street between our car and the neighbor’s car. That tumbleweed is the bloom I clipped yesterday and added to a red wire basket setting on the front porch. I try not to waste anything, including the dried blooms left on our hydrangea bushes. They make great fill-ins for floral baskets. The wind must have blown it out of the basket. Oh, I smell burnt pancake and run back into the kitchen! Just a little too charred to suit me, but Dean will eat it. Waste not want not, you eat what is served, right?
I bundled myself with a warm robe before going out into the elements to rescue the hydrangea tumbleweed from the wind and rain. The rescue was a success! I shoved it back into the wire basket with a little more force and returned to more pancake making. Dean awakes to the aroma of semi-burnt pancakes and sausage. No, the smoke alarm did not go off to awaken him. As I tell him my morning adventures he selects the YouTube playlist of Gene Autry as well as Sons Of The Pioneers version singing Tumbling Tumbleweeds …
See them tumbling down,
Pledging their love to the ground!
Lonely, but free, I’ll be found,
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds…
We talk of our childhood memories of burnt meals. This morning pancakes came close to the charred pancakes Grandpa and Great-Uncle Lloyd made for the whole family when going to the family farm in Franklin County. Dean recalled similar stories of his childhood.
No winter-like simulation now, it is the real deal. The winter weather seems to be sticking around for more than a few days. Icy, sleety, and snowy last week, and again this week dipping into the teens overnight and staying below or close to freezing during the day. Due to budget constraints our winter vacation week was decidedly best to stay in our home state of Missouri this year. No expensive sandy beaches to sunbathe on. Making the most of our budget and what our state has to offer during this winter season, Dean and I chose to visit our state’s Ozark Mountains. Most of our vacation budget is for a lovely lodge in the woods, the journey there only a 5-hour drive from home. Home-cooked meals prepared in a well-stocked kitchenette, and an occasional meal out satisfy us both. Every night a vignette of soft lights dot the mountain sides from the valley we are nestled in.
Dean and I venture out on half-day trips for a couple of days, visiting small towns and cousins. We went target shooting at an outdoor range one afternoon. We meander into northern Arkansas part of the week. Naked hardwood trees, pines, and cedars clothe the mountains along with icicled cliffs and crags much like glittered ornaments. Flowing valley streams, swooping birds of prey, and cattle feeding in the fields are the only movement around. Dormancy is what we experience, and what we need. Oxford’s online dictionary defines dormancy … “the state in which a plant is alive but not actively growing” and with this sentence example “dormancy allows woody plants to survive these unfavorable conditions”.
The quiet, unassuming beauty of the woods in dormancy stills my busy body, mind, and soul. Very present moment several times each day, a retreat without structure. Just being, breathing in and out, and audibly awake. It is not necessary to block out the static and noise of my job, the house, and almost no obligations as I am far enough away from these occupations. Words come in and out on occasion, Dean and I relating this quiet vacation week to our retirement years. Some words make a page in my journal, and others are just thoughts in dormancy for a later writing in favorable conditions and more life lived.
This year I am ending the summer season of my wellness career. The autumn season of my career follows, short and sweet like Missouri’s autumns with the winter season close behind. The dormant season always emerges into a glorious spring song. A book of collected letters, Letters To A Young Poet, poet Rainer Maria Rilke urges the young budding poet, Franz Xavier Kappus to look inward and know what motivates his own writing. Rilke encourages the development of a rich inner life which is the process of creative art. “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet. In today’s words, live today, be present moment. Some answers come eventually.
New Year’s Day it is! Morning is trying to wake up this first day of 2020. Slow, or it seems. A cup of hot chocolate and whipped cream awaken all my senses, warm me along with my Life Is Good long-sleeve t-shirt and leggings. I cannot sleep this weekday holiday. I awoke at 4:30am like it was a work day. The sun finally peers above the two-story houses across the street while sitting in our small cottage’s living room. My blogging urge comes. Reflection of 2019 was last night before I fell asleep on the couch. This morning it is looking forward.
What is to be my occupation in 2020 beside getting through this predicted long winter? Last week I came across this Sinclair Lewis quote, “Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.” For those who live in the cold regions, or have cold-induced angioedema like myself, this rings true. Reading, researching, journaling, writing, blogging, bookkeeping, and filing will be my occupation the next 3 months before the growing season. I may work on a jigsaw puzzle for a change. Maybe this mindless occupation will bring clarity and direction. All are warm indoor activities.
Dean and I are looking to our retirement years, how soon is the big question. I have exhausted my energy and drive at my government job. Too many politics and bosses to please, and why? I just want to focus on the holistic well-being of those people God has or will place in my life, my purpose in living. I will retire this autumn, with plans to find more enjoyable employment using my organizational skills for another 10 years, retire fully at age 70. My thoughts are I will probably use my human resources management, non-profit, and/or hospitality experiences in a combination of occupations. Desired is a Masters in Creative Non-Fiction Writing at my alma mater, Lindenwood University. This can be obtained with classroom or online courses. There is a 50% discount for students age 60 or over. My 60th comes in August.
The other question is whether to move south to at least a little warmer area after my retirement, and how far south to reside. Dean and I love our home state of Missouri, lived here all our lives. Maybe southern Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, or Texas will be where we will find our new home, in a less populated area? We are reading about and visiting various locations in 2020. My current read is the The Body Keeps Score, authored by world-renown Bessel Van der Kolk, MD. This book addresses the physical and psychological aspects of trauma. This is helping me understand my own past trauma and the trauma of others as well as the hope of healing. The book I started writing this past summer has come to a halt while I work through this healing. With our travels, I hope to occupy a writer’s retreat in the spring to continue this work.
What direction are you going in 2020 and into this decade? What will occupy your time and energy? Are you living your life with purpose? I ask for God’s light to guide you.