Friday, October 27, 2017

Flying High With Mixed Emotions

     It was such glorious weather again today! After I got home from work, I ate a quick lunch, changed into work clothes and went outside to clean up the garden. I collected the last bowlful of cherry tomatoes, then began pulling up the dead vines and doing a general cleaning up. I towed the lawn cart behind the mower up the hill to the gully behind the tree with the fort and swing. This is where we dump our yard waste and it composts down nicely. The big tree's leaves had fallen, but the branches provided a little shade so I sat there for a while, taking a break and enjoying the view. None of the neighbors were around this afternoon and the whole area was very quiet. It was just me and the breeze and a couple of crows off in the distance.
     Before long, I heard the sound of a small engine plane approaching from the northeast. I spotted it in the sky and noticed it was a biplane. It's not often we see these and I eagerly watched it approach. For some reason I expected to see an old looking plane. It was actually painted a bright shiny blue and yellow and it looked right smart in its shininess. On the underside it was marked, "Army" with a star on the under wing. It was very pretty and it was flying fairly low. As it passed overhead and went behind the tree line, it made a gentle turn to head back the way from which it came, over the vineyard. I stood up and walked out into the open to watch it depart. maybe the pilot saw me because he turned and came back around. What a treat! I was happy to watch this pretty plane circle around again. When he left for the second time, I gave him a big wave. Surprisingly, he turned and came around a third time and tipped his wings at me. Then climbed vertically for a few seconds before dipping back down right over our house. I was thrilled at this little show, yet perplexed at this exchange between total strangers. I felt solitary, standing in the open on the hill with no one to share this experience with, not even a phone with which to capture an image. It was a completely random occurrence but my mind was filled with its own interpretations of the exchange.
     My father came immediately to mind when I saw the Army insignia on the plane. I have been debating with myself between keeping my father's army memories alive with requests for information and forms to complete on his behalf vs. letting it all be buried and put to final rest and closing that chapter of our lives. Just this morning, I was filling out another form and struggling with myself on this topic. Emotions of grief are still fresh even after all these years and each time I revisit my parents' past, it's like reopening a wound. I want to honor my father but it comes at an emotional expense. It's difficult to keep the past alive and still live in the present and future. So, when this plane came from the northeast, the direction of my parents' home, and performed for me with "Army" written on the underside, I took it as a sign for something. Who knows what. I'm sure I'm being overly emotional about it, so I'll let the topic rest and it will sort itself out. I'll never forget that pretty plane, though. Whoever the pilot was, "Thank you!"


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Making Connections

     When you care for a place, as in physically take care of a place, you become intimately familiar with it and connected to it. When we were young, we knew the details and nuances of our toys. I knew my Barbie's bad knee, each grass stain on her party dress (from throwing her in the air), the dent in my bicycle fender where I hit it with a hammer, and the place where my baby doll lacked proper stuffing. Touching and playing with our toys each day made us intimate with them. Later, in our first apartments or homes, we knew the few belongings we owned very intimately. We were too familiar with the one and only saucepan we had to cook with, we knew which chair wasn't safe for guests, and which floor boards creaked when we walked a fussy baby back and forth at night. By dusting and carefully handling our few knick knacks, we were reminded of their origins and gently placed them just so in order to enjoy them in our home. There was the porcelain bird from grandmother and the pottery from summer vacation. We cleaned and handled them week after week, every time we dusted, over and over again, year after year until we knew them with our eyes closed. Even in the nightly routine of absentmindedly washing our dishes, we connected with these inanimate plates and cups by handling them just so every day. It's easy to own "stuff". It's the caring for it that makes or breaks the relationship we have with our stuff.
     I find this same thing to be true of our yards and outdoor property. We've owned a few houses over the course of our marriage. Some have had small yards and others had acres and we always cared for them ourselves.  We landscaped them and groomed them, season after season. I learned each swell and contour of the lawns, each dip and tree root, each soggy or rocky area, and what would or wouldn't grow in any given spot. I've connected with each property but one and enjoyed making improvements on most. I love planting and growing things even when challenged by failure. I also enjoy the regular maintenance and grooming of the gardens. (Except when it's hot and muggy.) We are fortunate to live in a geography where we have four seasons. The changing landscape makes it new and beautiful with each changing season and we get to know and appreciate its beauty all over again.
     I was happy to have the time and good weather to mow the lawn today. I decided to mow not only the yard but the front and side field as well. We usually leave it uncut for the farmer to make hay but, in the fall I like to mow the field grass short in case we have snow later on. The short grass makes for better snow cover. and there's a nice gentle slope on the field that makes a good sledding hill. So, on this beautiful fall day, I connected with our yard and land by mowing up one side of it and down the other, around and around. I felt the dips and gullies, the rocks and soggy spots. With each turn of the mower, a new vista opened before me and I fell in love with this land all over again. I felt like I had been apart from it for a while and I was greeting it anew. I took in the aromas of cut grass and dried leaves. I felt the sun on my face and watched sun patches light up the distant mountains. I loved our property today and it loved me back. I groomed it and cared for it and in return it renewed my spirit. I recalled the day we bought it and how I felt it was a generous gift from God, much more than I deserved. It belongs to us only for a short while, and today, for this moment, I was so glad.

 The Maple and Viburnum
         In April...

...and October 

Across the field toward the neighbor's

The sky was amazing today. All photos are unaltered and naturally beautiful : ).

Monday, October 23, 2017

An Autumn Visit in New England

     I'm disappointed in myself for not writing more. I don't know what happened. I'm also disappointed in myself for not keeping up with my housecleaning. I keep trying to figure out what's wrong and why I've let these things go but, I have no answers. I need to spend less time trying to figure out why I'm not writing and cleaning the house and just do it.
     We were away for a week up north, so there's one excuse for neglecting things at home. Steve helped his brothers install hardwood floors in their parents' house. I visited with his mom and my sister. We also stopped in NH for a little visit with Chelsea and her family. The weather was amazingly mild for October and the entire week was a real treat. I spent every day outside, taking walks. Everyone said the colors were not vivid this year, but for this Virginian, they were spectacular.

Simon grew many different kinds of peppers

Fall crops in the greenhouse. To stand in the doorway and breathe the moist, sweet earth brought intense memories of spring. Only to turn around and look outside to see fall.
Hugo loves to walk with sticks.
A view of the Hudson River Valley and Albany, NY from the Thatcher park overlook at the Helderberg escarpment. My sister and spent the day together visiting apple stands, and driving around the countryside. The city of Albany is a speck to the right of center in this photo.

We lunched at the Home Front Cafe in Altamont, NY. It was a time capsule of a place with good Americana type food. The place is filled to the brim with WWII memorabilia. We had no idea about this place. A girl at Altamont Orchards recommended it and we were pleasantly surprised. The waitresses were not friendly, but the place was large and bustling and the food was very good.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Welcome, Welcome Fall

     At last. Summer smothered and smouldered us long past her welcome. As if to make up for making us suffer, Autumn treated us to The Most Beautiful weekend. Fall is that perfect season in Virginia when the fields bloom with both asters and clover. There's a bit of Queen Anne's lace still blooming along with dandelion fluff balls. Summer and autumn intermingle as one passes on to the other. 
     There seems to be a bumper crop of black walnuts and hazelnuts falling from the trees. I can hear the large nuts hitting Mrs. Cahoon's barn and house roofs from over here. Inside her house, the sound of the drumming nuts onto her metal roof startle us while we visit, even though we know to expect them. Those black walnuts are so big that I worry about twisting an ankle when walking certain paths. I'll need to bring a rake up there and get them out of the way. The farmers cut their hay and the shorn fields now lay wide open to the sky. I invite Henri to walk more often than usual and he is happy to oblige. We aren't forced to follow a mowed path now that the fields are cut and we can explore more. Maybe wandering is a better word than explore. We wander. The air is certainly cooler and it's tempting to lie down on the grass where the breeze doesn't reach and soak up the sun's warmth. 
     We fed William's animals this weekend. This can either be a treat or a chore depending on the weather. This weekend it was a treat. The ducks are the most comical lot and it's easy to imagine Beatrix Potter's inspiration for writing her amusing animal stories just by watching those ducks. The sheep will follow anywhere for grain and the cows were behaving nicely, although the newest bull is a little stand offish. He looks like Ferdinand the Bull. He's black and his bony haunches are high and he carries himself the the Ferdinand character is drawn. He didn't want to follow the other bull and cows along the path to their dinner or breakfast so I suggested to Steve that he take the riding crop and shoo him in. Surprisingly, Steve did just that, except that the bull kept evading him and it turned into a chase game. Steve was having none of that nonsense and quickly gave up. How I wished I had my phone or camera to capture Steve chasing the bull around the field.
    Somehow the days flow busily along with work and chores and play... in that order. There's still more canning to be done, rug hooking continues, and we have a project Steve is working on in the basement, semi-finishing a space where the grandchildren can play indoors. It's a dusty, messy job that created a lot of fine cement dust all over everything, even with plastic put up. Thankfully we're past that part now and it's almost time to paint. We gave ourselves a Christmas deadline when we expect everyone to be here. I think we're on schedule, however keeping this perspective is challenging in light of the book I'm currently reading,  "Living Life Backwards" by David Gibson. (Thanks to a friend for the recommendation.) 

"The seasons and natural cycles of the world are content to come and go, but we sweat and toil to make believe that it will not be so with us."