Over the course of the winter and this early spring the busy red and gray squirrels in our neighborhood have managed to empty the two patio cushions on our next door neighbors’ patio furniture. I suppose the amount of leaves and branches in the neighborhood is not enough for these rascals. Hoarders and self-absorbed. Sound familiar? The synthetic stuffing that I call “white fluff” has been scattered about in the immediate neighborhood found in the green grass, bushes, trees, leaves, and the huge squirrels’ nest in our cherry tree. This has been going on over the past 5 months, with maybe the final unloading last night. We don’t see another cushion laying in the yard or patio furniture, thank God. The neighbor who owns the patio cushions appears clueless or could give a darn. Dean and I spent a few Saturday afternoons cleaning up the “white fluff” from our yard, and the next door church’s yard. A couple of months ago Dean fully emptied the one cushion the squirrels chewed a hole in and threw the remaining contents in the trash bin. The squirrels found the other cushion, and chewed a hole in that one. So a repeat with the second cushion, we have spent a good hour here and there cleaning up. Rather comical at times, but mostly aggravating.
On a more serious note, this “white fluff” illustrates to me the novel corona virus and the community’s responses. The squirrels are those people who carry the virus, and share their germs while out and about with their busy, careless activities like hoarding the toilet paper and taking their children to the grocery store for a “social hour”. The clueless neighbor is the person who refuses to self-educate with reputable, accurate, up-to-date COVID-19 information and seems to hide from life. Dean and I are the millions of people trying to keep our world cleaned-up and safe for ourselves and others around us. How about you? Are you watching after yourself and those people placed immediately around you? Surely you are not one of the squirrels making more of mess for the rest of us! Let’s get this “white fluff “cleaned up, obey the social distancing rules, and pray we have a vaccine before the next season arrives.
Summer allows for household projects to continue. Last weekend I found an antique corner dresser that goes perfectly in the guest bedroom. Dean surprised me and brought it home this week. And what a perfect day on Saturday this late August weekend, sunny with a slight breeze and temps around 80. Fresh paint to the front door and frame has been applied at Deanna’s Cottage. The door color is Sherwin William’s “nifty turquoise”. It stopped the postman for a chat while delivering the mail on Saturday, and one of the church goers at the little church next door “loves it”. According to Kristin Schell in her book A Turquoise Table, this color attracts. We hope the color to be a positive way to connect with the people of our St. Charles neighborhood. Eventually the front porch and window metal awnings will be stripped and repainted the color “natural choice” to match the door frame. We will go with a powered application as latex peels on metal. The final touch to the front entry will be a new screen door, an old-fashioned wooden one would be awesome. And more to come with a couple of Adirondack wooden chairs on a pebble patio to relax in and welcome the neighbors.
The last day of November was warm with a brisk wind to scurry about the colorful leaves. I walked the streets in Clayton to do some banking and grab a bite to eat on my lunch hour. The wind whipped from the west and changed directions several times that hour. The tell-tale sign of changing seasons. A mild autumn is quickly going into winter-like weather this week. The weekend forecast includes snow flakes, and colder than normal temperatures next week. “Each year is a parable begun in stillness, and chill, of bare ground warmed with spring life returning, then bursting, buzzing, peaking in summer, and issuing a final flare in autumn, to subside in another winter’s seeming nullity,” author Stephanie Mills writes in her book Epicurean Simplicity.
Preparations for the winter season may not be a necessary stack of firewood in my suburban lifestyle. I remember as a child the excitement of my family’s annual New Year’s Eve stay at the one-room cabin my father built on the family farm in Franklin County, Missouri. The simple shingle covered dwelling probably no bigger that 500 square-feet had no bathroom or electricity, but a wood stove for its heat source. My father and Grandpa would cut down old trees on the 100+ -acre farm and split wood throughout the autumn season in preparation for deer hunting trips and these winter weekend visits to the family farm. My current preparations include sweaters and boots being pulled from the depths of the closets as well as my epie pin and antihistamine stowed in my purse for the next 4 months. An allergy to cold air and water is not easy, but is not the worst a person would have to deal with. Thank goodness for gas heat.
And now I focus on my own heart matters for today. Simplicity. “Try to see the beauty in your own backyard to notice the miracles of everyday life,” religious leader Gloria Gaither says. I would say that is great advice. Perennial thoughts and ways, appreciating what you have now, and making do. Simple, thankful, authentic, resourceful. I am intrigued by the choice of voluntary simplicity as I further my research for an enrichment class to teach at my work place. There are authors, activists, and societies devoted to this way of thinking and lifestyle. Choices made such as local community versus global; homegrown versus mass produced; renovate or upcycle versus disgard; a 3-generation home versus having separate homes; public transportation, carpooling, or riding a bicycle versus commuting to work with one’s own vehicle everyday; hand-crafted versus manufacturer made; purchase local versus big brand, slow food versus fast food, and the list goes on. As author and ecological activist Stephanie Mills states“bigger has not turned out to be better.” I like the change back to some old ways and traditions. What does simplicity mean to you? How have you made simplicity a lifestyle choice? I would love to hear.
Author and teacher Ruth Senter says, “When you are truly joined in spirit, another woman’s good is your good too. You work for the good of each other.” How often do you feel joined to or work for the good of another? Do you feel joined at the hip, inseparable, much like conjoined twins with a friend, sibling, or spouse? When the other is happy, you are and not feeling skated. When the other grieves, you as well yet hopeful for the other. Goodness is the goal not self-gain. To witness or live this kind of friendship, it is a gift.
During the Lenten Friday dinner at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, Missouri, my Dean and I saw some lovely bonding between this community. The whole church celebration of Latino song and dance as well as fish dinner punctuated the beginning of our weekend. A multi-cultural band of musicians from Mexico, Ecuador, Aruba, and Kenya beautifully entertained the congregation with a Latino instrumental rendition of “Hotel California”. Later women and children danced in festive colored costume. Such a memorable evening.
Dean and I are joined at the hip for life. Besides commuting together during our work week, we work and play together on weekend projects. This weekend we secured our plants as the cold set in for 36 hours despite the spring equinox. We unpacked and sorted more household items. Pictures, photos, and trinkets are going up, which is the fun part about making a house a home. We crafted a bathroom towel rack made from scraps of recycled barn wood belonging to my paternal great-grandfather and clearance curtain tie back holders. Our Sunday date to Hermann’s WurstFest included the hunt for an antique shelf or table to house our bathroom towels. It had to be no wider than 11″ and no higher than 44″, but the length was open since our lone bathroom is long and narrow. We saw a few new furniture pieces at Pier One Imports and Home Goods, but the prices were not attractive. At one of our favorite Hermann antique shops we were greeted by a special lady friend. We perused the shop’s goods, and she finally pointed us in the right direction. A repurposed oak bucket bench made into a floor shelf unit. Perfect. On the way home from our Sunday excursion we stopped at Home Goods to buy some totes, a big basket, and a metal caddy for storage. The total price 65% less than what we saw earlier. Satisfied local shoppers we are!
I had a deja vu moment this past weekend while walking down a neighborhood street to the auto part store with my Dean and our Midnight. During our brisk walk I approached a view unforgettable from my childhood. An old brick house, the grandmother’s house of a farm family I grew up with just down the road from my childhood home and tree farm. I was 12-years old again and at the place where I knew I was more than 1/2 way home from the old town ball diamond where I played softball. On occasion my sister and I would walk to ball practice and our games. It was at least a 2-mile walk one way, and required us to cross over the interstate on a cross walk. Considered a summer adventure, not scary. Over 40 years ago, my hometown St. Peters, Missouri was a farm community. Everyone knew each other, and for the most part everyone was trustworthy. That cross walk was torn down a few years back. But if it was still usable today, would I let my 10-year old or even 14-year old granddaughter walk that distance to ball practice from home and back again? I would say “no” as this community has greatly changed in size. We do not know our “neighbors” like we did back then, and who knows about the interstate traffic and travelers. The world has changed its character.
“Almost home” is like those familiar places and people. Thankful for, content with. The rental house has been a temporary refuge for us, almost home. But home and family is where we are meant to be. All my senses clearly see, smell, hear, touch, and taste its warmth. The pine wood and painted walls smell fresh, clean, new. These colored walls are awaiting our human presence. I hear our birds chirp near the front porch in the maple and dogwood trees. And I feel the crisp new bed linens and quilt to my skin as I lay in my bed along side my husband. This weekend we will be moving our personal items back to our renovated home. And our hearts come with. Living minimally has been refreshing like the aromas of fresh wood. Dean and I vow to continue this. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “’Home’ is where you lay your head, and share your heart and blessings with your family…” no matter the structure or belongings. The Books of Matthew and Philippians in our Bible say, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” and “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” My prayer for each of us, we know that God our Father provides for our every need and that we each are content with His provisions.
A slow, quiet snow continues to fall this Lenten Friday morning. A hush only experienced just at sunrise and with snow cover. The songbirds will become active within the hour, feeding on sunflower nuts and seeds we have provided for them. Another inch of snow overnight, and a forecast saying the cloud cover will dissipate sometime this morning. It has been another week of snow, sleet, and ice, not quite the volume of last week, but winter all the same.
Lenten Fridays become a culinary holiday or tradition in my neck of the woods. Two or more dozen churches in the St. Louis area offer a Lenten fish fry. Even a Jewish community in St. Louis offers a “meatless” menu on the 6 weeks of Lenten Fridays, an opportunity for folks to gather during these last days of the winter season. These “fish fries” can include baked fish or steamed shrimp, a healthier alternative. Each year Dean & I peruse the newspaper and internet to find well-priced fish fries close to work or on the way home. The fundraiser efforts of our community churches can be expensive on our tight budget, so we gather 3 or 4 times during the season. Sometimes we get off on a Friday early enough, and make it to our home parish All Saints. We make sure we partake at the St. Peter Church in St. Charles on one of those Fridays. The wonderful portions of homemade slaw and desserts beat all the rest. St. Paul, Missouri has 2 places for a Friday evening destination, the local bar Dog Prairie as well as the local Catholic church serve up fried fish and shrimp. Albacore tuna on crackers works as well as a meatless pasta dish like my Pasta Primavera I wrote about in my previous blog. We will meet with my brother and sister-in-law next Friday, and the Friday after with Dean’s cousins. We people are like the birds who gather at the feeders and trays on these winter mornings. Chirp and chatter about the savory dishes we are partaking in, local happenings, upcoming trips, and the long winter.