Here is a quick hello and an almost-summertime update. The crush of the spring semester is over, so we are all relaxing a bit – except that mom is rushing full tilt into organizing mode now that there is more time. The picture above struck me as perfect for the boys’ activity these days; they have been planting seeds (apple and kiwi, and others, I believe) and watering them, and digging holes to the center of the earth, and digging up treasures in the driveway. I have been keeping out of the garden this spring but I did promise the boys that we could ask Gramp if he would help them to plant a few things when he and Granny come to visit soon.
Although it is summer vacation, things seem busy, but partly that is because things are a little disorganized without a school schedule. It is hot, not dreadful, but we are indoors more, and the boys are doing lots of drawing. Gramp and Granny (that is a portrait of them, above) came for a wonderful visit last week. My husband and I got to go on a mini vacation. We sat by a lake in rocking chairs – I did nothing but look at flowers and geese and clouds and trees for simply an age. I haven’t done that in years!! It was lovely. Gramp and Granny, you are the best.
Just before Christmas, we had a tiny bit of snow. I took pictures to mark the occasion.
It was gone in a day of course, but it made me happy. Having been born in March in Minnesota; and having spent the next 20+ years either there, or in similarly snowy climates, snow is imprinted somehow in me, and I respond when I see it. After more than a decade without it, I am glad to be back where it can be found. It represents continuity with my past and my family, and good memories I have of wandering outside and experiencing the peculiar nature of snow – the way it muffles sound, and changes the appearance of things; how it draws people together to stay warm, and to figure out how to maneuver through life while buried in the stuff.
This weekend it snowed and snowed and snowed – for two days and two nights. The children joyfully sledded, but not for too long during the snowfall, because the wind drove a little too hard for comfort. After the storm, we had great sled rides in the sunshine on perfect slushy snow.
It’s dark and misty outside, with nearly no moon, which means that it’s more than usually difficult to see outside. I got up full of vim to go for a walk this morning, but it is still too dark to go. Living away from streetlights has advantages – so many more stars to see, and moonlight which gives a magical appearance to things. However – it can get so very dark! “Darker ‘n Toby’s.” (Toby was black a dog from some point in my family history. The original expression has another word, denoting the posterior portion of Toby’s anatomy, but it is generally left out for politeness’ sake.)
A few nights ago I went to put out the trash, and was pulled up short a few steps from the house because just beyond the pool of light from the outside lights I suddenly couldn’t see anymore. I put my hand in front of my face, as an academic exercise – I could see it, but barely. I was afraid not of wild animals but of “physics in your everyday life,” as my husband puts it; that is to say, walking into a pole, or turning an ankle in a rut.
Our road is curvy and hilly, and offers picture postcard views. Mostly. Once while on a walk (during the day) I came in view of a small shed. Dark grey smoke was pouring out of the door and shooting out under the roof from the eaves. The sound of a revving engine issued from the inside. The horrible thought occurred to me that someone was trying to do themselves in. Just then however I caught a glimpse through the door and saw two men on either side of a motorbike on blocks. It didn’t seem likely that they were going for a double suicide.
One of the men plunged out the door, with a long and eloquent stream of cursing. He saw me, and stopped.
“Sorry about that, ma’am,” he said. “I got a little angry there.”
I waved to signify that I had not taken offense (I hadn’t) and carried on.
Time to go for a walk while the going’s good! Sayonara ’til later.
…and cloudy is the weather. I haven’t met an old man, clothed all in leather, but it wouldn’t particularly surprise me if I did.
Last night very late, while everyone was asleep, I padded along through the house to the guest room with the tall windows and looked out. A few windows were open to the sound of frogs and insects making a steady din. I looked at the trees in the mist and thought, oh, I am too busy. So much beauty all around, but I rarely stop to admire it these days.
Now it’s eleven, and full-on busy time. I was on my hands and knees this morning with a tweezers and a box cutting knife, removing straggly bits of wallpaper embedded in tile grout. I remembered a time years ago, pre-babies, when my husband, watching me carefully transfer pasta sauce into a container with a rubber spatula, told me with amusement about something called the law of diminishing returns. I wish I could apply that here, but you can’t just leave wallpaper sticking in grout, can you?
Soon I’ll be done. I resolve to go outside and enjoy the cloudy day. If I see an old man clothed all in leather it will probably be a biker, and I will smile and nod.
Several weeks ago our three-year-old began a routine of asking each morning, after hopping out of bed, “What animal should we be today, Mommy?” Each day we’ve been a certain kind of animal – he the animal boy, and I the mommy. After a while our five-year-old joined in (mostly he has remained one animal – a mouse.)
A couple of months ago the subject of the tiger’s diet came up, and I told the boys that tigers hunt and eat other animals. Our three-year-old laughed with the comfortable assurance that mommy was being very silly: “Tigers don’t eat animals!”
“What do they eat, then?”
Fast forward to today. As I was putting Lion boy’s socks and shoes on his feet, I saw that he was happily pretend-chewing a pretend-something.
“What are you eating, Lion boy?” I asked. “A snake?” He shook his head. Then I remembered our prior conversation. “Grass?” He nodded cheerfully.
Oh, my. I have two sons now who would greet a ferocious animal with “Hail friend, well met!” I think it’s time to introduce “Never Smile At A Crocodile” and perhaps discuss the law of the jungle.
Good grief, it has been a long time since I last posted. I’ll do my best to get back on the wagon. My children are like kittens, and when I try to write or draw, they do the equivalent of a cat’s sitting on one’s newspaper, or knocking things off of shelves, only on a more problematic scale.
In lieu of a drawing, I present the painting above, which I love, done by my redoubtable mother-in-law. It looks like it could be a western North Carolina scene – it would look even more so if the blue trees in the background were mountains.
On to the burden of this post. It’s easy to wax idyllic about rural life. Our little vegetable gardens are producing like mad. There are pretty trees and flowers and horses and goats all around. On the other hand, there are also large snakes, spiders, and ticks; sweaty-hot days, weeds and thorns and poison ivy.
Poison ivy! I had no idea of the hidden depths of this plant. It has settled comfortably down in our woods and has spread itself liberally. Did you know, that so much more than leaves of three which ought to be left be, poison ivy makes thick and horrifying V.O.U.S.s (Vines of Unusual Sizes)? Hairy winding vines, some as thick as your arm (well, my arm) that climb up and choke trees? So I have learned, and we have a couple of fine specimens here, along with all their running branches. Our little homestead, if we were in England, might be named ironically “The Ivies.”
My sister and I, when we are NOT feeling the idyllic side of nature, declaim a version of Katharine Hepburn’s character’s words from The African Queen – “Nature…is what we are put in this world to rise above.” A couple of weeks ago I went down into the woods, full of vim, to forge some trails. If you want to experience a physical analog of the dark and tortuous depths of human nature, come and visit our woods. Long neglected, it’s got scads of matted thorns, fallen logs, decay, even a dark and spooky gully. It’s given me a new appreciation for park services – and for saints.
If you want to see it you might come soon. I emerged after 45 minutes to ask my husband to get hold of a Bobcat. Untouched nature has a lot of fans, but civilization is a lovely thing, so say I.