This 4th of July was the mildest that I remember for St. Louis. 80’s and low humidity. And this week following is not too hot either. A reprieve from the typical summer sultry stuff. We had days of rain, but a dry spell for a week where we actually had to water our potted perennials and annuals. My blue lobelia wasn’t happily blooming one morning, so a good soaking it received. Our lettuces and greens are fully bolted. Nature takes over and seeds are being formed to reproduce more. The bed of greens has produced scrumptious salads for two months. We had the last harvest for the season. I may get a few rows sowed for an autumn crop late in August. The rain returned this weekend, some storms with it this time. Feast or famine. The rains or dry patches.
The past few days in the backyard birdhouse a pair of Eurasian tree sparrow nestlings hollered at their parents for their feedings. Dean and I watched with careful observation as the nestlings grew, seemed to add feathers and chirps each day. The nestlings became fledglings in a matter of days. They took flying lessons from the back porch rail. After this weekend’s storm, I found one of the baby birds dead in the back yard. Not sure if its sibling had a better outcome, hopefully safe somewhere in the shelter of the trees. Life is so fragile. Death is so final or it seems. Another brood of Eurasian tree sparrows will hatch this autumn or next spring or summer. Nature and its circle of life goes round and round. Lessons to learn.
The summer solstice came and went without my celebration. I am sure the earth still celebrated! Too busy I would say. Yes, I need to slow down. Family engagements and work obligations continue to press me of my time, focus, and energy. Simply watering the potted plants or making a light, summer dinner is a chore. I have not stopped long enough to smell the roses or savor the flavors of summer. I took the day off today. Had to get some reprieve from the madness, gather my thoughts. Nothing like an upset stomach and headache to slow you down. Every year it is like this just before vacation finishing up projects at work, home and yard chores, making sure all the travel details are together. The air was unsettled this morning when I went out to water the potted perennials in the back yard. Something brewing. The clouds kept rolling in. Kind of like my recent hectic days building up.
I had no groceries in the house as we have been house and pet sitting this past week for two vacationing family households. I thought I would beat the eminent storm. It was like night by the time I gathered my $30 worth of protein and veggies into the Jeep. Big wet drops started to hit the pavement and my bare arms and sandaled feet. I managed to get to the cottage before the dark clouds totally let loose. Our first summer storm. How refreshing. I read Ann Voskamp’s timely words, “A soul does not work without a sabbath…Be still and know God…and not forget who you are.” There was a time in my life when I forgot who I was. And these memories too have preyed my mind these recent days. This vacation will be good for me. For Dean, too. Different scenery, a fresh view. I think a month-long vacation or sabbatical will be in 2020. Brewing for my next season in life …
The weather people have been telling us about this big winter storm coming to our region by the weekend. Amazing how they can view the weather patterns over the ocean and predict conditions 5 days out and 2,000 miles away. Sleet, ice, and snow in that order. Well, they are right about a winter storm. Although snowflakes started a couple of hours ahead of their initial timeline, and the precipitation is snow rather than sleet. Too cold for sleet and ice. Thank God! But much more snow than first thought, now close to a foot by the end of the storm.
I am in the comforts of my home, and no plans to go out this weekend. Church may not be attended on Sunday. Much depends on the city’s plowing services. Just heard one go by. The neighbor boy cleared the walking path to the street late afternoon yesterday, and my Dean cleared it again this afternoon. We are ready if we had to go out.
So home equals comfort, the warmth of good food, robes, blankies, and candles. We went grocery shopping a couple of evenings ago based on the forecast, along with many others by the long checkout lines. Freshly baked orange-cranberry scones for breakfast, the buttery aroma enveloped our home. And then homemade chicken veggie soup for lunch. Relaxing this afternoon, so leftovers will do for dinner tonight. A veggie lasagna will be made for Sunday dinner. A couple of library books at hand, a decorating one caught my fancy today, Cozy Minimalist Home. I am writing with the warming orange flicker of the candlelight nearby. The song birds are feeding outside the window before tucking in for the night. At this moment I would not trade this to a secluded sunny beach. See how many more snow days before I change my mind! Right now, all is good!
Bird life on Island Lake this summer is very active. Forty-one loons and counting as more were being hatched this week. Two families of ducks frequent the boat dock and lake side looking for handouts. Apparently vacationers were feeding them, and the presence of more people posed the promise of more handouts. Duck audacity was proudly displayed even with our 85-lb labrador, Midnight present. Midnight had a whining fit as we kept him on the porch until the ducks and ducklings were back in water swimming safely onto their next destination. Flies, butterflies, and dragonflies flew with the breeze. Owls by night and chipmunks by day sat on the tree limbs watching the life underneath. Co-existence.
The summer rains followed Dean, my sister, and I to our beloved Minnesota. It rained everyday we were at Island Lake. But each day also included some sunshine and low 80’s. Thunderheads would build up with steam as the day went along. Then, the winds would blow the rain across the lake in sheets, causing ripples and then white caps in the lake. The cool north air would follow. Those storms created some awesome views from the porch of our favorite little red cabin or the boat dock. Dean captured a few awesome photos. Our Midnight embraced the noisy storms outdoors or on the porch with us. The thunder sounds different at Island Lake than in our Missouri home. Momma loon and her baby weathered the white caps in the bay, bobbin with each wave. Dean caught the reflection in the water as a double rainbow arched above the lake. Friendships continue after so many years. And new ones form even amongst the dogs. Another memorable week at Valhalla.
We will be on the road very soon for our trip to the Minnesota northwoods, a sanctuary of peace and quiet on a picturesque lake. Any lengthy road trip includes a detour sign or two. With the flooding in our region and anywhere in the central states with a river or creek, we suspect to encounter several detour signs. The detours slow us down, keep us on watch for the next arrow sign to give direction, and it just seems to keep us from arriving at that final destination in the time we desire. The word “detour” means “an indirect or roundabout path or procedure”. Isn’t life full of detours? In life, we sometime miss the neon orange detour signs. We simply see our flight delayed, a closed door, a failing relationship, no job offer, a difficult medical diagnosis, storm damaged vehicle, pay freeze, or failed crops. In reality, the detour ahead is a part of the journey. I would rather enjoy the curves, hills, and valleys in life’s journey, as well as “keep my eye on the prize.” What deep yearning or dream is hiding behind the detour signs?
Life gets stagnant from time to time. Satiety, boredom, ennui sets in. Another time the demands of this person and that project adds up to a multitude of “have to” rather than “want to” chores. So what do you do to get out of that funk, evolve into a better mood for the day or status in your life? You spontaneously take a 24-hour breather, an overnight retreat somewhere neutral. Dean and I did just that. On Saturday into Sunday we drove the Missouri country highways in St. Charles, Warren, Franklin, Washington, St. Francois, Jefferson, and St. Louis Counties. Saturday afternoon we stopped at a local winery. By evening we found a state park to eat and finally lay our heads down.
Sunday morning, another overcast start to the new day. But silence resignated instead of the buzz of street traffic and urban noises. I gathered my sundress, dressed quietly to not wake my sweetheart. Stepped out the back door, leaving just a screen door between me and the quaint hideaway I slept in. I sat in a lawn chair situated on the deck overlooking the slopes of huge trees leading to the river valley. The cardinals and finches sang. Then a hush before the dark cloud rolled over with a hum of pitter-patter on the dense leaves. I heard the raindrops approach before they where atop the trees in front of me. A steady rain, gently watering the earth.
Queen Anne’s lace, orange day lilies, and pink coneflower swayed with the breeze and occasional rain shower. Darker clouds rolled in with sheets of rain coming down as we dined at the state park cafe. We waited out the sudden outburst, and then made it to the jeep for a drive to the motel seated on a high ridge over the Meramec River. “Where do the butterflies go when it rains”, I thought aloud. Butterflies hide when it rains, like they do at night. They hide under the shelter of large leaves or a pile of leaves. Sometimes butterflies go under rocks or structures. But other butterflies just put their head down on the grass or bushes closing their wings tightly. If the rains are heavy, their wings are damaged and they never make another flight. Where do you hide when the weather gets rough?
I just told Father at church last week, I need to be more present moment. My job requires planning weeks and months ahead, and family life the same sometimes. I miss moments in the planning. Nothing like being present moment with a stomach bug. I came to a screeching stop. Not knowing which end to put on the toilet, and then sleeping most of the day and night the next 36 hours. Every waking moment is a “thank you” for life and sleep. I could hear and see the spring rains come down several times, raindrops rolling off the windowsill. The birds sang to their heart’s content. I went from eating nothing to sipping ginger ale to nippling a couple of saltine crackers, and finally today able to keep a piece of toast and a boiled egg down. I have always felt stock made from the bones can cure many ails, so a couple of chicken breasts went into the crockpot with Deanna Greens and Garden Art fresh herbs and Hannahway Farm’s homemade wine. I will be sipping a cup of homemade chicken soup for tonight’s dinner.
This afternoon I managed to put my jeans and a blouse on, and I believe I lost a couple of pounds. Not my idea of a weight loss program, but I will take the reduction any way. The trees and grass are greener. “You gotta take the thunder with the rain”, I tell our Midnight, our 85 lbs labrador/flat coat retriever mix. He is terrified of thunder, but loves the rain and sleet. He snuggled on the bed yesterday as a couple of thunder showers went through. More violent today, storms. This afternoon tornado watches and warnings have been issued. Midnight and I will keep a watch out. I find that relationships are a bit like storms, too. There is a time to play in the rain, and a time to find shelter from it. Gotta take the thunder with the rain.
Summertime textures and a palette of colors keep the canvas alive. The humid afternoon storm cleared with a lone sunflower opening as the clouds parted. A seed remnant from bird feed tossed during the past long and cold winter sprouted in our moss basket near the kitchen window and has grown to bring sunshine to my day. In the evening a breeze cuts through the humidity as Dean and I drive down the country highway to the farm where our greenhouse resides. Wispy feather clouds less than an hour before sunset seem to paint a silhouette…
Wispy feathers grace
golden eye with black shadows
hides behind hat brim
Anna Marie Gall
June 17, 2014
Gentle rains sprinkled the Missouri earth early last week. An even soak for our plants that just came outdoors from their winter home of the garage and back bedroom. Yesterday, I finally had a day at home to prune and primp the large moss baskets of wandering jew, Moses-in-cradle, bridal veil, and dragon-wing begonias as well as our several pots of succulents, arrowheads, and ferns. As the day went, the humidity was building up, it looked like rain 2 or 3 times before the dark cloudy skies finally broke loose come early evening. I had my hair pulled up away from my face while I worked, ringlets formed by the steamy air like I had used a curling iron. The native pets became restless as the day went. Heavy raindrops and loud claps of thunder drove Celine, our cat under the furniture. Midnight, the dog panted with nervousness. The pets seemed relieved with Dean’s arrival home from his 8-hour round trip Sunday visit to his youngest son in Springfield. Devastation as tornadoes swept south of us through Arkansas, though violent thunderstorms hit most of Missouri. A long night though the sun shined bright this morning, glistening off of ultra green leaves and grass. Prayers go out to those in Arkansas. The song There’s Got To Be A Morning After by Maureen McGovern …
There’s got to be a morning after
If we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine
Let’s keep on looking for the light
Oh, can’t you see the morning after?
It’s waiting right outside the storm
Why don’t we cross the bridge together
And find a place that’s safe and warm?
It’s not too late, we should be giving
Only with love can we climb
It’s not too late, not while we’re living
Let’s put our hands out in time
There’s got to be a morning after
We’re moving closer to the shore
I know, we’ll be there by tomorrow
And we’ll escape from darkness
We won’t be searching anymore
Some of my biggest stress relief is having a dog and a cat to come home to on any given day. Dean and I’s pets are our fan club. Unconditional love and acceptance. The other day I was greeted with the most pathetic whine from Midnight, like I was his long-lost buddy. Dean arrived home before I, and had the front window open to welcome the late afternoon spring air. I could hear Midnight when I pulled into the driveway. Some days when we unlock the front door we have a big black nose right there with a welcoming, waging tail. Other days, the black nose is resting on Dean and I’s bed. I have written about “Midnight”, our 85 lbs labrador, flat-coat retriever mix a few times, and mentioned our cat, “Celine” once or twice. At the end of our workday Celine usually meanders from the back bedroom stretching from her afternoon slumber trying to focus with her sleepy green eyes. Some days she stretches her front paws onto my leg, wanting to be picked up, hugged, cuddled, loved like a child. In the photo, Celine is awakening from an afternoon nap amongst the seedlings and other plants on the warming mats. My Dean has captured our pets in their most comical, yet common poses during or after their sleep. We have 6 “granddogs”, with the youngest “Bleu” shown in the photo. “Grandcats” are part of the family, too. Here is Pennylane, our youngest grandcat posing so cutely. Last night was another story. Thunderstorms ripped through our local area about 3:00am. Our Celine lowers herself to a crawl on the floor and hides. And our 85 lbs dog becomes a nervous wreck with each clapping thunder. He pants and paces from one room to another, one side of our bed to the other. Dean finally got up to give Midnight an herbal supplement that helps calm him. This morning I awoke to find Dean on the couch and Midnight on our bed. Guess who got more sleep?