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.
Humidity dominated the air the past two days after a spell of crisp, clear mornings and evenings. The walks have been lovely. The leaves scurry about. Finally raindrops splatter the parched earth here in St. Charles County. The thunder rumbles. A lovely sound. Our Labrador, Midnight does not seem to mind it too much. It has been a long while to hear these stormy sounds. No walk outside tonight for safety sake. If it was just rain, well I would welcome a walk in the rain! I will finish my daily quota of steps indoors while vacuuming the floors.
The wind begun to rock the grass
With threatening tunes and low, —
He flung a menace at the earth,
A menace at the sky.
The leaves unhooked themselves from trees
And started all abroad;
The dust did scoop itself like hands
And throw away the road.
The wagons quickened on the streets,
The thunder hurried slow;
The lightning showed a yellow beak,
And then a livid claw.
The birds put up the bars to nests,
The cattle fled to barns;
There came one drop of giant rain,
And then, as if the hands
That held the dams had parted hold,
The waters wrecked the sky,
But overlooked my father’s house,
Just quartering a tree.
~ Emily Dickinson
“Rejoice, you deep places of the earth! Break into shouts of joy, you mountains, you forest, and every tree in them!” Isaiah 44:23.
The early autumn colors of sage and yellow have popped out along Missouri’s hillsides, the country and city landscapes. Fresh green leaves have started to turn to sage green and for some woods, that aspen yellow began. Amber and sable are seen in the sunsets, and soon these colors will be in the trees and fields. I love nature in its autumn clothes and all it’s glory!
“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.” ~Terri Guillemets.
“For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.” ~ Edwin Way Teale.
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 couple of weeks ago we moved into a rental house just a mile from home while the insurance company and general contractor debate the renovation of our home. The work finally started today! With our housing situation I have lost track of the days into December. Daylight has lessen considerably, with tomorrow the shortest day of the year. Winter solstice comes in the midst of record-breaking high temperatures. The air feels like spring. Pansies are still in bloom outside the small local shops. The trees in the woods are confused, too. This past weekend plum trees displayed white blooms looking like white holiday lights along the country highways to Nashville, Tennessee.
While in Nashville we visited the Grand Ole Opry Resort, dazzled by the lights of Christmas among a jungle of green foliage and the marble white nativity contrasted in the December darkness. Amidst these shorter days, God’s love shows bright despite the world’s darkness. I will focus on His Light of Love these long nights.
On Sunday morn, I awoke at my weekday rising time of 5 am something. My bio clock keeps ticking on time. Darn it anyway. I join my feline friends in the living room and lie on the trundle bed snuggled under the throw while gazing at the picture window. Celine and Jo are situated on the love seat next to the window, their favorite perching spot. Celine had been there for awhile, dozing from time to time until the tweet of a neighborhood sparrow arouses her. Jo, the single male cat in the house just arrived to the scene after his night of prowling in the house. He cackles at the birdie, premeditating the pounce. Jo, our daughter’s Tabby takes every opportunity to escape to the outdoors. I cannot blame him. Pennylane, known as “Pounds of Penny” snoozes while her sassy plumposity lies on the floor nearby. And Pixie, the eldest feline and Midnight, the dog have not awoke yet, snoring with the other remaining humankind in the bedrooms. I watch the December sky turn from a midnight blue to a fuzzy and fluffy white with a tinge of purple behind the bare tree silhouttes. The silence so clear, a quiet moment with God. Creation speaks as the pastor did at church later that morning. “Trees” written by Joyce Kilmer in 1914 …
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Nestled trees, sunlight
While a stroll park bench invites
Wispy shadows, warmth stays
My morning lingered and I languished until the lunch hour. I could not wait any longer to get outside to take in the spring air and 70 degree weather. I set out to walk a bit, but did not get too far. Well, this Haiku poem says it all.
My father’s obituary … more thoughts in a few days …
Martin K. Bates, age 76 of Bowling Green, passed away Thursday October 18, 2012, at his home. Funeral services will be held 11:00 a.m. Saturday
October 20, 2012 at the Mudd-Veach Funeral Home in Bowling Green, with Rev. DawnVictoria Mitchell officiating. Burial will be in the Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Bowling Green. Visitation for Mr. Bates will be held from 10:00 a.m. Saturday until the time of service at the funeral home.
He was born March 10, 1936, the son of Earl Kenneth and Anna Susanna Kurz Bates. He grew up in St. Louis County and on April 26, 1958 in St. Louis, he married Darlene Hudson. She survives. Also surviving are his father of St. Charles; two sons Martin Richard Bates and wife Joan of O’Fallon, Stephen Kenneth Bates of Bowling Green; two daughters
Margaret Bates of Los Banos, CA, Anna Gall and husband Dean of St. Peters; five grandchildren; 5 great grandchildren; one brother Earl F. Bates and wife Sunny of the State of Montana and one niece Julie Fait and husband Jim of Romeoville, IL. He was preceded in death by his mother,
his step-mother Paula Bates and one nephew Drew Bates.
Mr. Bates lived in St. Charles County for 43 years where he owned and operated Bates Nursery in St. Peters from 1969 to 2002 when he retired. While owning the nursery, he raised many of his own plants, and did landscaping. In 2003 he moved to Bowling Green. Martin was an avid hunter, loved his hunting dog Midnite and enjoyed training dogs. He also enjoyed woodworking and painting and sketching. He was a good husband, father and grandfather and was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Hannibal.
Serving as pallbearers will be Rick Bates, Steve Bates, Ian Bates, Nathan Bates, Benjamin Phelps and Dean Gall.
Memorials may be made to the Donors choice.