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
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
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.
The vibrancy of the autumn season reigns this year! All the rain over the summer and evenually some cooler days has provided an unforgettable canvas for the eyes. I captured this scene while waiting in traffic on my commute home from the office one day this week. A masterpiece of God’s design, those colorful leaves placed just so and the warmth of the sun just right. What a gift …
We were unable to get to our greenhouse last week due to weekend travels and heavy rain storms, including a tornado touchdown just 3 miles from Boone Hollow Farm where our greenhouse sets. Dean and I finally were able to get out there this mild late spring evening. Gorgeous green and peace surrounded us while we worked for an hour before sundown. Dean mowed the grass of our 1/4-acre plot. I cut flowers and picked the greens.
The seeds sowed late March have been very prolific. Greens, greens, and more greens. Arugula, soft leaf lettuce, and mizuna mustard greens. Dean and I cannot personally consume it all, so we are sharing the abundance with family, friends, and co-workers this growing season. The greens bolted with all the sunshine and warmer days, so I pinched those new buds off. A couple of weeks ago voluntary cherry tomato plants came close to being plucked and pitched into the weed pile outside of the greenhouse. I decided to have mercy on them and transplanted them into the huge tub of compost that sets on the edge of our 1/4-acre plot. Look, a whole nursery of them! All the rain and sunshine has done wonders. I will cage them anticipating a fruitful season for them as well.
I have held up fairly well this very cold winter season. I kept busy indoors with a 1000-piece puzzle, reading, writing, vacation planning, and even a couple of hand-written letters placed in the mail box. You know, the old-fashioned way of communicating! My interior decorating picked up again, with our newest additions a chaise and lace-paneled screen for my boudoir, as well as a vintage stained glass window for the wall above the buffet in the living room. It brightens the room up with the sun on it; swirls of purple, blue, and golden yellow reflect into the cottage. Just what my soul needed … color! Having just a little spring fever …
Oh, but there is the love of dirt, too! I am anxious to get outdoors to dig in the dirt, sow seeds, plant flowers, move onto exterior decorating, and feel the fresh air and sun on my face. Daylight savings time began this past Sunday, and the Spring Equinox is a week away! Do you think the weatherman and mother nature saw the calendar, too? I sure hope so! No springtime snows and frigid cold blasts, please!
This will be our first spring in our little St. Charles cottage. Signs of green popped up a couple of snowstorms ago. I believe they are daffodils throughout the front and back yards. Bursts of yellow in a few days! I am sprucing up the indoor plants at home and at the office, trimming dead branches and topping the pots with fresh potting soil this week and next. My green friends have done well under the plant lights in the basement, where it is not quite as cold as the barely heated garage at the other house. And no feline friends to perch themselves in the potted plants! My citrus tree, bird-of-paradise, ferns, and other potted perennials will go outdoors when the threat of frost is past, late in April.
Plans for very old awnings to come down, painting weathered window frames, window cleaning, and new fencing are on the top of the list of outdoor chores this spring and summer. But the other chore, which to me is so much fun, is yard designing with the existing garden beds, as well as the choices and placement of garden art. One of my childhood friends from Minnesota sent me a photo of her little mini greenhouse in the midst of an autumn snowfall, the sun gorgeously set behind it filtering through the autumn leaves and windows. It brought to life the desire to build such a potting shed, maybe a bit of a “she-shed” where I can play in the dirt and plants. But also to sit and relax on a comfy chair sipping herb tea, my writing journal, and pen among the birds, butterflies, and blooms.
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!
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?
Autumn has been lovely. Another late harvest brought in the last of the volunteer arugula and tomatoes early in November. I was able to capture the sun from the growing season in jars of green tomato marmalade. Writing took a back door while gathering and prepping the fruits of our labor. The words continued to be gathered in my heart and eventually journaled. Now winter whispers this crispy morn. I am ready for more steeping hot teas and whipped cream lathered over hot cocoa while writing and reading.
Where is the Bee—
Where is the Blush—
Where is the Hay?
Ah, said July—
Where is the Seed—
Where is the Bud—
Where is the May—
~ Emily Dickinson, Answer July
I am missing May. This July in Missouri has been a scorcher. Parched the past few days, rain finally came overnight after a 108 degree day in the St. Louis region. More is needed. I pray. Yesterday Dean and I walked Midnight late-morning. The tree leaves were turned and folded in an attempt to protect from the blasting sun rays. They made a wither y rustle when a slight breeze came by. We waited until dusk for that last walk of the day. The sun, oh so hot this summer! Yet I am reminded of its purpose by the flowering beauty of our bird of paradise, the delicate peppery flavor of arugula shoots, the calmness of green in my Swedish ivy planter, and the glimmering glass art butterflies at the Butterfly House.