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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December in the Raggedy Garden

       WInter is here! December has come! It's Christmas in the Raggedy Garden! The dark comes early, and it stays late. There's only a skim of daylight in December. But I can put up some christmas lights, and light some candles and sit in the dark with the star shine and the cold December moon. The snow lights up the dark, too, reflecting the moon and the stars. Making magic. The Paper Whites are blooming, with their subtle scent, another white glow in the darkness. One can't grow anything in the December garden, so one must grow things in doors.
       There is the fun of going out to pick greens, for decorating, and red berries. Red berries are at a premium this year. I cannot find many at all. The Shiva's have two beautiful holly bushes at their house, but the birds have definitely beat us to those red holly berries. I settle for an arm load of bright, prickly holly branches, sans berries. The cedar smells so fresh and clean, and the hemlock and pine add more incense. The birds are flocking to the feeder. It needs to be filled daily. The bright red cardinals light up the brown, wintery lilac bush and add their persistant cheep to the sounds of the day. The wood box needs constant filling, the stoves constant feeding, and we are warm  and cozy.
       This small girl comes into my kitchen every December, for many years now, an old familair friend. Oh, the baking, kneading, cooking, stirrring that goes on in the Raggedy Garden kitchen in December! The house smells pleasantly of cardamon and cinnamon and chocolate. The best thing, though, are the friends that flow through it. The river of friends who come through the door, bringing fresh air, and laughter, and song and good will. They drink coffee and share tasty morsels and bless the Raggedy Garden with with life and love. The old ghosts come in too. Sweeping in with the wind and we feel them here with us when the lights are dim and the fire is low. Jolly old friends bringing oranges, old aunts and grandmothers bearing gifts and tarts. Babies who played on the worn wood floors who grew up and traveled far away. A young girl with a new train set, driving her train around and round the track, her long blonde hair sweeping the floor, until the batteries wore out. Now she has her own home, no more train, her hair gone short. I like them here, sometimes on December nights, old happy memories to keep me company.
            Snow shoes wait by the door. Waiting for enough snow to take someone on a hike. Across the unbroken drifts to the silent woods, to the muffled brook, to the windy hill top. Come with me, whispers the wind. Come find the hidden places, come find the tracks of the deer, the place where the otters play, the birds nests swaying in the trees.
       With December comes the end of the year. With all it joy and gladness there steals a soft footstep of sadness. For this year can never be again. We must face bravely a new one, and make of it what joy we choose. Find within ourselves beauty, and faith and love and compassion to rise up and cover the darkness and evil . Lift our eyes to the sky and let our lights shine , reflecting the light of heaven.
        December sun sets on the Raggedy Garden. Auld Lang Syne.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Peace on Earth

       The night is cold. The wind is whooping it up around the corners of the house. The trees creak and groan. The doors rattle. My house is old, and somewhat shabby. I am thankful to be here, sheltered from the wind and the cold. Everyone has already crawled into bed, curled up warm and sleepy under the Quilts.
      I have turned out the lights and I stand looking out the window. I do it every night, a habit from years long past. A quiet and peaceful interlude after each busy day.
      The sky is black velvet. I cannot see the moon. The starshine reflects off the snow covered ground, filling the night with white light. I can see the lights from the houses on the hill across the valley. The stars are brilliant. They really twinkle on certain clear winter nights. They don't seem as though they are so very far away. They look as though you could reach out and touch them. Stars intrigue me. I wonder. If I could hold one tiny flick of starlight in my hand, would it still wink, and glitter? When there are meteor showers and the sky rains stars, where do they go?
     How did those wise men, those Magi, find that new star in the East? What great allure did it have, compelling them to leave behind the places that they knew and go, following that star? Following it to a far distant land?
    What must those shepherds have thought, keeping watch over their flocks that night? Were they standing there as I am now gazing up into the glittering heavens? What if I suddenly saw the night sky filled with a heavenly host? What was it like to hear the angels sing? The Gospel says they were 'sore afraid'. Those words have such quality. I have never been 'sore afraid'.
     I think of my children and all those that I love. I want them to see this and understand. This was the beautiful gift given to mankind on that first Christmas Eve. We no longer need to be 'sore afraid'!
     The ice has crept halfway up the inside of my windows, because this old house has no storm glass. The ice looks like filigree. The star shine gleams through and makes lacy patches on my hardwood floor. Probably even a king or a queen doesn't have filigree windows of silvery lace on their floors! But I do. I can sleep content, knowing that there really is peace on earth. May we all have a quiet place to find it.
     This was published in the New Hampshire Union Leader several years ago. So many people who read it, told me I should use it for my Christmas letter. So here's my Christmas wishes to all of you!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Christmas Truce

      I'm sure you have all heard the story. Christmas Eve 1914. World War 1. The western front. England was going to go over there and get rid of this evil menace and the world wouldn't have to have any more wars. The Germans were going to march right over into France, turn around and come home victorious. By Christmas! By Christmas the war would be over, evil vanquished and everyone would be home safe in bed!
     Alas, Here it was Christmas Eve and Englands boys were shivering  in the trenches on the western front. Like a bunch of moles. Down in a big hole, in the water and mud and the cold , dank air. You could not see over the top unless you climbed up and stuck your head up, which you definitely did not want to do. Every one was tired and discouraged and wishing they were home. The tench went, basically from Belgium to Switzerland. The Germans were in their trench just across from you. In between was no mans land. That small space littered with dead men and the accoutrements of war.
    Firelight flickered on the weary faces of the men, some reading or writing letters, some drinking coffee, some smoking, some nodding off. Dim and far away, they hear something. Some strange sound. Instantly they are alert. They listen. Yes it comes from the enemy tenches. It rises, mellow in the night air. They cannot understand the words, but they recognize the tune! The German boys are singing carols! They look at each other. Then one by one they also begin to sing. the same song, different language. The starry night is once more filled with song, rejoicing in the Saviors birth. No angels, no heavenly host in white. Only that motley host of soldiers, singing, singing.Were the songs of angels more glorious? Were perhaps these also angels, unaware?
     The German boys had started it. Germans celebrated Christmas in abundance. They already had Christmas trees, which had not yet become popular in other parts of the world. Now, the British boys bgan peering through the night, through the gun holes, peeking over the top of the trenches, to see what was going on. There was movement and lights. Yes, coming towards them! They got their guns ready. But this was different. This was something else. Slowly, cautiously, they climb up, out of their ditch and stop, waiting. Slowly, cautiously, the enemy advances towards them. they move forward, compelled to go. Compelled to see what this means. All guns are dropped.
     They meet in the middle. They shake hands. They communicate. they exchange gifts. Chocolate. Cigarettes. Trinkets. Pictures. They laugh and sing. Christmas Day they gather again. Playing football. Having fun. Forgetting war. They work together and bury their dead. Those crumpled boys in no mans land. They bury them. They recite Gods  word. They pray. What they are doing is strictly forbidden. By both armies. Both armies have officers who pretend not to see.
     This went on all along the western front that dreary year of 1914. Many men wrote about it to their families. The letters are still with us today. Words written so matter of factly in dingy trenches  by men and boys who would soon also lie crumpled on the cold ground.
      Ypres. Ypres was an old, old town. It was fortified with ramparts and a moat. All these soldiers from England came through Ypres, through the Menin Gate. It was not really a gate, just an opening in the ramparts where the bridge went over the moat. It was the main road into France, and through it went all those English boys. The Road to Hell, they called it. Thousands upon thousands never came back.
      Ypres was virtually destroyed by the war. It has now been built back. After the war, the English built a real gateway at the Menin Gate site. It is a beautiful white portal, still the main road out of town, engraved with all those names, and also a memorial to all the nameless ones who are buried so far from home.
      Every single day, since 1927, at 8:00 pm, the fire department of Ypres comes to the Menin Gate. The police stop all the traffic. Utter stillness falls on the evening air. The firemen play "The Last Post". There is a moment of silence. Then they play "Revielle".  So no one will forget. So no one will ever forget. Then life resumes its normal noise and bustle. "The Last Post" gives them rest. "Revielle" symbolizes their ressurection.
     On special days, they will ask some famous person, or just someone from the audience,to recite from L. Bingon's poem.
                                    "They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
                                      age does not weary them, nor years condemn.
                                      At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
                                      we will remember them."
     I love the song "Silent Night". If you have never heard it sung in German, well, you should. I have heard orchestras play it, choirs sing it, guitars, pianos, soloists. In my mind, I hear it, far off and quavery, coming through the dark and the cold, from hundreds of voices. Voices that stopped a War, for a day of peace.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

One Hundred Miles

       One hundred miles from Nazereth to Bethlehem. If you look at a topographical map you will see mountains and hills and long, lonely, rocky stretches of mostly nothing. I think about that journey so long ago. Always, as long as I can remember, I have had that glossy christmas card picture in my mind, and I loved it. Loved the christmas story, loved to read the beautiful account of it in the gospel of Luke. The cadence of the words, the way they unfold from that long ago writer. I get chills, and I get choked up amd I get tears when I read it. But now I have been thinking about how unglossy it really was.
      A very young  Mary. Just an ordinary girl, going about the work she had to do everyday, Just like us. Not in pure shiny robes with a halo. Not educated or wealthy. Just an ordinary girl. Have you thought about how she trembled when the angel came? How she must have kept this secret , wondering what to do? If Joseph would put her away, what might happen? Would she be stoned, as the law directed?
     And Joseph, only a hard working young man, looking forward to life? How troubled was he, then at these things? How fearful was he of being visited by an angel?
     We complain and grouse about our taxes. Think how it was for those people. The Roman soldiers demanding the taxes from them, having no mercy. How frustrated were they, to have to travel to the place they had come from to be counted in the census? We grumble about filling out census forms, and being bothered by census takers, don't we?
     But off they set, Joseph and Mary, being great with child. Walking those weary miles to Bethlehem. The road from Nazereth to Bethlehem was a main Roman road, well traveled. But it must have been crowded, and dusty, and any one of us who have been great with child can surely feel how bone tired and anxious they were. Just an ordinary man and woman with a walking staff and a small donkey. No one would have noticed them in the crowd. I think they didn't have any glowing aura. Just a tired and dusty donkey with a tired and dusty woman and a tired and dusty man.Coming in to Bethlehem too late to find room in the inns, they go to the stable.
      I picture the stable to be actually not so bad. Their homes were limestone cave like dwellings in Nazereth. History says Nazereth shone  in the sunlight, a white city high up among the hills. I milked cows in a dim, dusty barn for many yers. It was quiet there, with only the cows chewing their cuds, the sweet fragrance of hay, the ping of milk in the pail. I liked the peacefulness of it. I don't know how well that stable was kept, I don't know if Joseph was able to muck it out, but I know it was cozy and warm and a good place to rest.
     The shepherds? Lonely men, out there on the hillsides, watching over their flocks by night. They were the first to know! Can you even begin to picture the clear starry night sky suddenly filling up with a heavenly host, singing?Walking up out of their familiar hills , into this dingy bustling city? They were just ordinary shepherds doing their job on an ordinary night. Until The angels came to tell them the good news.
    The wise men? The Magi. The three kings. The pictures show us jeweled and crowned and finely robed gentlemen bowing and presenting their gifts, of gold and frankincense, and myrrh. I think they were tired and dusty and travel weary, too, when they came. They must have been thought of as fools and crackpots to go traveling over the deserts and mountains following a star. Gaurding their camels and their treasured gifts for so long a journey. Following a star! What do we know of stars? Would we find a new one to study and decipher, with all our reading and studying and knowledge? Would we interupt  our lives to go seeking so fragile of a notion?
    One Hundred miles from Nazereth to Bethlehem! Up from the hills and into the city to see this thing which the Lord has made known to us! Load up the camels,you wise men from the East and trek the weary miles to lay gifts before the King!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Angels

         It's time to get out my Christmas angels. They have stood watch over me atop my kitchen door for many years. The family of them has grown, so now they flow down the sides of the door frame, too. They are a diverse gathering. It started out with the clothespin angels that I made with my girls when they were small. They were in an old McCalls magazine that we had picked up at the Salvation Army store. they were like paperdolls that you glued onto round clothes pins. There was halos to glue on to the back of the clothespin heads. Cupcake papers were folded to make wings, and all were liberally smeared with glue and sprinkled with glitter. They are faded now, and lots of glitter has fallen off, but they still stand straight and tall on the top of the door frame.

          There is an acorn angel with a pine cone dress. She has coppery wings and she holds a song book.There is a pink and white plastic angel, she's tiny and pastel and cute. There is an angel with gossamer wings and a blue beaded dress, a wooden thimble angel who has lost one of her wings. There is a tall, thin birchbark angel who feeds the birds, a crochet angel, white as snow, a seashell angel with a wide scallop shell skirt and small scallop shell wings. Her hair is frizzy and fly-away. A cut tin angel, patina-ed with age. her head bobbles, and I think she sings with a quivery, old voice. A vintage plasticine angel stands on a fingernail moon and plays her harp.
            There is a tiny little cowbell angel, an angel with butterfly wings, a straw angel with folded hands. There is a crystal angel and even a little mermaid angel. Her cheeks are pink, her hair is golden and her gown is mermaid green. Today, I got a new angel, from a little pink cheeked girl with starry eyes.It is a baby angel with a warm winter hat. I will put her up to meet her new friends on the door.
           When I get all my angels in place, then I know it's coming on Christmas! And doesn't scripture tell us to welcome strangers, for they might be angels, unaware? You never know which one they might look like, and they bless our lives and our homes. Open the door to the dusty one, the sparkley one, the wild woodsy one. Listen to them with your heart, not your eyes or your mind. You might find the Christ child there!
              This was written in my notes, on Facebook, last year, before I started blogging. I put my angels up today, and I thought I'd blog it with a few pictures. ( This is a coconut fiber angel with a seaglass vase. She came to me from Hawaii.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Forgotten Dolls

     A long time ago there were two little girls who lived in a little old farm house, down a winding road, over by a pond, in New England.  It was beautiful there, and such fun they had in that litttle old farm house. They had a bedroom upstairs, and from that bedroom you could go up into the attic. The attic was dark and dusty, and cobwebby, but oh, so fun . Every day the girls had to go take a nap. Mother didn't say they had to sleep, they just had to go up and rest and be quiet. Sometimes the girls would go up into the attic and play during nap time.
     One late fall day when they were playing in the attic, the girls found a big bag that they hadn't seen before. Making sure that no one was coming up and seeing them, they peeked in the bag. OH! Such a delightful sight! There were two identical boxes. Each box held a doll. A most beautiful, amazing ,perfect brand new doll. A majorette doll! Every little girl wanted a majorette doll that year. It was the thing to have. They had been hinting to mother that all their friends had majorette dolls, and really, mother! They needed one, too. Obviously mother had found them somewhere and was stashing them up here for Christmas!
     Christmas was so far away, How could they ever wait that long? They gazed at the dolls. the miniture batons, the boots, the socks, the blue skirts! The white blouses, the red jackets, the jaunty hats! Oh! It was almost as good as being a majorette yourself! Of course, the were only looking at them through plastic. They couldn't really touch them. They would have to stay an unplayed with secret for two whole months.
   Faithfully every couple days at nap time, they went up to the attic and took out the boxes and dreamed of the day when they could really play with them. Finally Chriastmas was coming. The little farm house was bustling with fun and secrets and baking. It was full of company and presents and gusts of cold air everytime the door opened, Mother had warned everyone that they could not, under any circumstances go up in the attic, as she had all the presents up there. The girls really did not dare to go up and check on the dolls.
    Christmas morning came at last! The Christmas tree glowed in the front room. The star on top seemed to twinkle in the dimness of that early December morning. Presents were piled beneath the tree. The girls tip toed around, whispering, anxious for everyone else to get up. Then the fun began, with father handing out presents, children shouting with joy, paper being ripped and crinkled. The girls took each present with baited breath. There were warm mittens, there was candy, there was dolls, cute baby dolls, but there was no majorette dolls. They kept looking at each other with questioning eyes. Where were they? The last presents had been handed out, and they were not there! What could have happened?
     Of course Christmas Day is busy. There was Church to go to, and Grandparents and cousins to visit, and carols to sing, and there was no nap time, and bed time was even late. The girls fell exhausted into bed and fall asleep instantly. The next day it was snowing and every one went sliding and played outside. The new mittens were cozy and the candy was nibbled away.
    When mother sent them up to take their nap time, the girls didn't argue, as usual, and beg to stay up and play.They scrambled upstairs and sat on the bed waiting for every thing to quiet down. Then they made the quick dash up to the attic. They stood there for a moment, breathless, half scared...yes! The bag was still there! They grabbed it and looked at each other. "Mother forgot about them!" they said together.
     Now what was to be done? They couldn't ask mother about them. She would be angry at them for being up in the attic and digging in things that were none of their business. Things they weren't supposed to know about. No, they best not mention it. They took the dolls down to the bedroom. Oh, they were still just as wonderful! They took them out of the boxes, and they played. Oh, how they played! When nap time was over, they carefully put the dolls back in the bag in the attic and went down stairs. Now every day they waited for nap time, dashing up to their room quickly when mother said. If she ever wondered why the sudden aquiesence to nap time, she never questioned them. Every day they had that glorious hour with the dolls.
      The chenille bedspread was the perfect marching field for majorettes, the hollows perfect parade routes. The majorettes practiced and marched and twirled batons for that glorious hour every day, then hidden lovingly back in their attic hideaway.
       When summer came, they didn't play with them as much, because they didn't always have to nap. Sometimes they played out side all day and didn't play with them for days at a time. Then something exciting happened! They had out grown the little farm house. Father had sold it, and they were moving to a new big house up the road! It was crazy and exciting to move to a new house, a new bedroom, a new neighborhood. It wasn't until they had been settled in the new house for a few weeks, that the girls remembered the dolls.At the same moment they both sat up in bed in the new room and said, "the majorette dolls! They got left in the attic!" It was very sad. There was no way they could get the dolls back. It was as if a part of their lives had gotten left in the little farm house.
      The new people in the farm house had girls, too. They went to school together. They always wanted to ask them about the dolls, but they felt shy about it. Finally after many months went by, they asked about them. "Oh, yes," the new girls said. "They were there in the attic. We played with them, but now they are wrecked, and we threw them out."They wanted to cry, but they wouldn't, not in front of those awful girls who had cared so little for the forgotten dolls that they had ruined them and threw them away! They could never be friends with those girls anymore!
       How the years have flown by! The little girls are grandmothers now. They never told their mother about the dolls in the attic. But I heard the story, and we laughed and cried over those lost times. Christmas forever young in memory, dolls still beautiful, marching in their shiny boots and twirling their batons.Can't you hear it? The whisper of the new england wind when the door opens? The smell of Christmas baking? The soft echo of Christmas carols? I do! I do!

Monday, November 19, 2012

November in the Raggedy Garden

        Some times November is still pretty green.  Sometimes not! This year , it has still been nice, so far. This is the scene we see at the end of the road that goes to our wood lot. A beautiful old farm hunkered down at the bottom of Kidder Mountain. Yup, New Ipswich is rural. The Raggedy Garden has been put to bed from several heavy frosts. Frost is beautiful. A frosty Raggedy Garden is beautiful. Before the sun comes up, all white and clean,, every last left over leaf, every blade of grass, the swing, the fence, the leafless pear tree, all are coated with crystals. When the sun comes climbing up over the hill, over the tops of the pine trees, every thing turns to diamonds, then as the air warms, they glimmer with prisms and then turn back to their sere, brown selves. So, there is magic in the garden, after all. I know it in the spring, when it suddenly begins coming to life, I know it in the summer, all richly colored and frilly, I know it in the fall, ablaze in glory and frost, and I will know it in the winter, when its covered in ice and snow.
         We did have our first dusting of snow. It didn't amount to much, nor last very long. I love snow shadows. They are so blue, and exagerated. Foot prints look bigger, and old rusty buckets take on a shabby chic of their own.
         The nights come so early, now, and the warmth of the day disappears with the sun. The wood box needs filling every day. The kitchen range hums along, radiating warmth, fragrance and cheery crackling as it eats up copious amounts of birch, ash, oak and maple. At night, when the lights are out, it gives off the softest glow, that comes from within, and keeps the kitchen cozy. Its big black surface has a hundred uses. Keeping food and coffee hot, making the tea kettle whistle, cooking meals, drying mittens and gloves. Its great for huddling around, too, when you come in from the cold. It worries not about power, or electric bills, or oil tanks. It is my friend of November days!
       The November sunset hangs fierce and intense in the western sky. It gradually fades to grey, then inky black. November nights are black velvet nights, star filled nights, meteor shower nights. November has the trappers moon. Trappers, like hunters, get their own moon. How lucky is that? No month has a mothers moon, or even a thanksgiving moon, do they? I don't mind, though. I know trappers and hunters need a moon, a frozen marsh, strong legs and a brave heart. I am partial to November nights.
      Thanksgiving Day is coming soon. Thanksgiving at the Raggedy Garden is loud and boisterous, with lots of children, lots of food, lots to be thankful for. I am thankful for Thanksgiving, for all its legends and stories, for all the Thanksgivings that I remember, for all the Thanksgivings yet to come.
       I don't know if you've ever read Robert Ruarks "The Old Man And The Boy",  but according to the old man, " he would pick November as the best month, because it wasn't too hot and it wasn't too cold, and you could do practically anything in it better than any other time of the year, except maybe get sunburned, or fall in love. Although he added that "there ain't nothing wrong with falling in love in November if the moon is right."  Then he asked the boy if he could see what he was driving at, and the boy answered, "yesssir" because he didn't want him to start explaining it all over again. So we'll leave it at that. I do beleive the moon is right...


Friday, November 9, 2012

Veterans Day

    It began as Armistice Day, to remember the veterans of World War 1, the great war, the war to end all wars. Armistice was signed in a rail car on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year 1918. But after all, it wasn't the war to end all wars, and after world war 11 it was changed to Veterans Day, to remember all veterans from all wars.
     I remember they always sold, or gave away, crepe paper poppies, beautiful red ones, for veterans day. This of course, because of the poem by Captain John McCrae who wrote "In Flanders Fields". Flanders fields encompased a huge area where many battles were fought, and many thousands of soldiers died. Legend has it that all the soldiers feet churning up the muddy soil here, aerated the ground and in spring thousands of brilliant red poppies sprang up, blooming and beautiful.
                                     In Flanders fields the poppies blow
                                     Between the crosses row on row,
                                     That mark our place; and in the sky
                                      The larks, still bravely singing, fly
                                     Scarce heard amid the guns below.

                                     We are the dead. Short days ago
                                     We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
                                     Loved and were loved, and now we lie
                                      In Flanders fields.

                                    Take up our quarrel with the foe;
                                    To you from failing hands we throw
                                    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
                                    If ye break faith with us who die
                                   We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
                                   In Flanders fields.
     Captain McCrae, by the way,  did not live to see his poem published, but also died during the war. The paper poppies were to symbolize this great sacrifice, red for blood, the black heart of the poppy for grief, and the green stem for hope. There is a Somero buried in Flanders fields. Some where there is a photograph of it. I have seen it. All those white crosses, row on row, and one says Somero.
      I once recieved a gift of a poppy. A gift of more than a poppy. Let me tell you a story....
       When the cold November rain pelts on the car window, and the pavement and the buildings shine wetly in the city lights, I can close my eyes and remember. Its funny how out of so insignificant a thing can come so vividly a memory of a long lost thing. The years and the miles stretch by so quickly, you don't stop to remember. Rainswept fall evenings bring a glimpse, a half forgotten scene, and then faster and faster they crowd upwards, full blown.
         I was only a  girl, playing at being grown up. Newly married, my world colored with love and
happiness. I can smile, now, at how little I knew then of life. Sometimes glancing at the man beside me, I can feel that after so many years, he can feel what I am thinking. We went to Portland alot in those days. We had spent our honeymoon high up in the Portland Hilton. We often went on Fridays nights to pick up my sister who worked right down town.
         This was the kind of night it had been. A damp, chilly, rainy Pacific Northwest fall evening. Dark came early. We had crossed the Columbia on slick, wet pavement. We would park the car and sit and wait for Mary to get out of work, the radio softly playing love songs, watching the people go by. A man had a little three sided shelter where he sold newspaperson the corner. I don't remember how we figured out that he was blind, but we were fascinated with the way he handled the steady stream of customers that bought his papers. How he took money and made change. My father in law was blind, so we felt a kindred spirit with him.
          We would buy a paper from him and talk with him for a bit. His name was Bob. He wasn't exactly unfriendly. You couldn't say he was angry or sad, really. It was just as if he was unhappy, and he wanted to stay that way. Well, it didn't seem very pleasant, out there in all kinds of weather in his yellow slicker and his worn out shoes.
         It was Bob, who had a box of blood red paper poppies near his change box. I still remember how he handed one to me, how I took it, how cold my hands were as I twisted the stem around my jacket button. We would buy a paper and go sit in our warm car, then go home to warmth and lights and supper at home. Where did he go? Did he have any of these things?
         He was a lesson to me about thankfulness and not taking my life for granted. I would think about him through the week, wondering... I wore the red poppy on my jacket. One night he wasn't in his little shed. We went window shopping, kind of waiting for him to come back, so we could say hello and buy our paper. There was a little drug store with something in the window that caught our eye. When we went in, we saw Bob sitting at the lunch counter. His slicker was dripping wet, making a big puddle on the floor. His cane was leaning on the counter beside him. He was eating a bowl of steaming hot soup. I wanted to turn away, ashamed of myself for the fascination and horror with which I watched him. He was so clumsy. He made loud slurping noises. Things got knocked around.
         We were holding hands. I felt Boones grip tighten. I looked up at him. His eyes were filled with tears. We turned around and left. Did Bob have anyone to love him and care for him? Yet somehow, I felt as though he did not wnat his life any other way.
         You know what gift Bob gave me, besides that blood red poppy to remember veterans? He gifted me with a glimmer of understanding about Boones tender heart, that he has tried so hard to hide. He gave me the gift of knowing, that if you are brave enough to get close to blind, wet, ragged, uncouth people,  you find out that they have touched your heart. They have made you more compassionate and understanding. They have showed you the gift of finding beauty in the ugly. They have given you blood red courage. The petals of which surround the blackness of grief and despair and make it beautiful. They give you green hope for a better tommorow. Perhaps a tomorrow that has no wars, no blindness, no cold rain.
         Life isn't all warm and loving. Alot of it is dull and sordid. If I tell you this story, will it enrich you, will you understand? I wish you a veteran for a friend, a poppy, and a blind Bob....

Friday, November 2, 2012

"If You Hear A Robin Sing..."

   The afternoon sun was warm here. It mellowed the old logs of the porch, making them look smooth and golden. A few geraniums still bloomed bravely on the rail. Red against their bright green leaves. Linnea sat in the old rocking chair. Its familiar dull squeak - squeak rested easy in her ears, a kind of soft musical accompaniment to this September afternoon. The faded crazy quilt lay across her knees. She knew every scrap of it. In her mind she strung them on, like beads in a necklace. Grandmothers wimter coat, plain brown plaid, the red dress they had gotten for christmas one year, the yellow apron... She remembered stitching the quilt and tying it. Could it really be so long ago? Where do years go, when they are done? She thought they stayed, like this , a crazy quilt of memories in your mind. Sometimes, on a quiet afternoon, you could sit there and and run your fingers over the years, too, stringing them like beads on a necklace.
    An old cemetery sloped down the hillside across the road. Orderly rows of saints and sinners washed white and clean by the rain and the wind and the sun. In all her eighty years, Linnea had never once seen a burial there, nor even a mourner. Thats how old it was, how long it had been here. Before her grandfather had built this cabin. She had lived here all her life. She had played among the stones. When she had learned to read, she had spent days there, tracing the letters and reading the quaint old names and sweet little verses. She remembered that she and Liisi never thought it was a sad place. It was just a peaceful part of their very small world.
    Liisi was her older sister. One year older. This cabin in the North Carolina mountains was their very life. It was here they were born, here they were raised. It was here that her heart was. She had never desired to go any further. Liisi was the one with the feet that couldn't stay still, the one whose heart flew over the hills looking for something else.
     Now they were old. Liisi had gone, up over the mountains with the traveling man.Oh, Linnea remembered still how Liisi had looked that day! So glowing and beautiful and and full of life. She wore her blue wedding dress and store bought shoes, some of grandmothers red geraniums in her hair. Linnea could still feel the great wrench in her heart as she watched her and her man walking off down the road to town where they would get on the train and go to the city. So far away it had seemed, as if she had flown to the moon.
    Linnea laughed to herself, now. Now people really did fly, any where they wished, some of them had really flown to the moon! She searched for the scrap of  blue in the quilt. There it was , still a piece of that wedding dress, here with her in the mountains. Liisi had never come back. Still she lived there in the city. Every week she had written to Liisi and every week, she had gotten a letter, too. She felt she knew intimately all the places that Liisi had been, all the things she had seen, and done. This is what she, Linnea had done every Wednesday since Liisi had left. Sat here on this porch, in this rocking chair and and read her letter.
    She opened todays letter carefully, unfolding it and pushing her glases up on her nose. Liisis perfect, neat handwritting was now faint and scratchy, as though written by a trembling hand. Linnea knew that hers was, too. She thought about that. She remembered how grandmother had made them walk that mile to school in every kind of weather and how proud she had been for them to know reading and writing. Grandmother had never known herself, but through them, she had felt herself an educated woman. She remembered the teacher holding her hand over hers and guiding the pencil. She remembered how they had practiced and practiced until they could do the magic of making such lovely smooth curving letters that turned into words. She remembered the green checked gingham dresses that Grandmother had made for them to wear to school, one for each. How they took such care with them, carefully taking them off as soon as they came home and hanging them on the nail. There was alot of those green gingham pieces in the quilt.
     Now their letters weren't so interesting any more. Liisis man had been gone for many years. Her only son lived near her, but he didn't have any children. There wasn't much to write about. Both of them had legs that didn't work so well anymore. Linnea remembered how they used to run and walk and climb, here on this farm of Grandfathers. This hilly steep, barely making it farm in the mountains. Here the winters were cold and snowy. The wild winds skirled and moaned around the upstairs loft where they slept and the snow blew in between the logs and rattled the window. Here spring came late, but it came in all its green glory, and the snow melted and the ice chunks chased each other down stream. The leaves furled out and the fruit trees blosssomed and the plowing and planting began. Summers were warm and  and chancy, for a mountain farmer. This Linnea knew, for after Grandfather had died, she had been the one who kept the farm going. Fall here was the beautiful, mellow time, when the work was winding down. When the mountains were painted with brilliance, when the air hung smokey and blue.
      All of Grandfathers years, he had worked hard here, first of all thinking he would be leaving something for his son. But Linneas father had died before she was old enough to remember him, and her mother soon afterward. Still Grandfather had plowed his meager fields and worked the soil to make it more fruitful. Still he had raised his cows and pigs and chickens. Still he had planted his apple trees and cherry trees. Still he had made his barn weather proof and strong, to last the years.  She had watched him growing old there on that farm, and wondered. What would happen then? Who would be wise enough, who would love this little hilly farm as much as he did, who would carry on the work, then? Not once had she thought, "it will be me. I, Linnea will love this land, and keep it."
      Now she let her fingers smooth the quilt. With out looking, she could find those squares of faded denim. Grandfathers shirts. The ones he wore until the elbows wore out, and Grandmother would patch them. The ones with the frayed collars and cuffs. After they were too worn, Grandmother would carefully cut off the butttons and put them in her button box, and cut the better pieces into quilting squares.
     One afternoon, an afternon much like this one, she had walked with Grandfather across the road. It was only a gravel road then. They had climbed the hill, up to the top of the old cemetery. There Grandfather had put his frail, work worn hand on her shoulder. It had surprised her. grandfather was not one to show affection. Neither was he garrulous, but said only the words that needed to be spoken. He had stood there with his hand on her shoulder, looking off into the distance. His eyes where a faded blue and she could see the colorful mountains reflected in them. He seemed remote and far away. "Grandfather?" she asked softly. Slowly he turned to look down at her. "This ," he said with a sweep of his hand, "all this is all that I give you. Not just this hard scrabble farm, Linnea. Always remember this. Look around you." He slowly turned her around in a complete circle. "These mountains, these skies, these trees in all their glory, these rivers and streams. Everything that you can see. You can have it everyday for the rest of your life. Only you have to work hard to survive. Your survival only comes from that small holding on this hillside. If you can keep that, then you can always,always have all this loveliness to call your own."
      Tears had burned in her eyes. She knew what he was saying. She was honored that he had such faith in her, that he would entrust a lifetime of toil into her hands. She had looked at her hands, up there on that September hill. They were small. They were untested. One day would they look like
Grandfathers hands? His hands were sinewy and brown, they sprouted grey hairs and dark age spots. His fingernails were bent and yellowed. Did she want hands like that? Ah, youth cannot see themselves bent with age!
      Linnea looked down at her hands now. They were tracing a small yellow quilt piece, a piece of the dress she had worn that day. Yes, her hands did resemble Grandfathers hands. They were still small, of course, but they were sinewy and brown. They, too, had dark age spots and her fingernails were bent and yellowed. They are worthy, she thought, they are worthy of Grandfathers faith in me. I worked hard, and I still have this home that he built so long ago, and I can still see these mountains, all decked out in fall colors, I can still feel the wind and see the trees. I can hear the brook babbling and the sky above me is still smokey blue.
       She put Liisis letter down, and just like she always did, she took out a pen and a paper from her pocket and wrote her return letter. You have to do it right then, or else it might get delayed or forgotten. her hand trembled so slightly, making the beautiful cursive writing jiggly and crooked. She saw that, but she smiled. "I did it. Liisi," she wrote. "I did what Grandfather asked of me all those years ago. It came to me today, while I sat here enjoying your letter. We are old, and the years have flown by, and I did it! This farm on the hillside still keeps. "
       Linnea got up, taking her cane, and went down the porch steps. Yes, grandfather would be surprised to see all this. The privy was never used anymore. There was plumbing in the house, running water, a bathroom, hot water whenever you wanted it, electricity...things Grandfather would never have dreamed of. They made life much nicer, indeed they did. The barn even had lights. There were no cows any more, she still had a few chickens pecking around, giving her some eggs and making some noise. No pigs. No hay piled, fragrant and golden in the hay mow. People couldn't make a living on a small farm any more. That kind of life was past.
        Perhaps Liisi was right. Up out of the mountains you could make a living all sorts of ways. Everything was handy, people every where to look after you. A few times, Linnea had gone over the mountain. It had been exciting. Liisi lived a good life. She had kept her mountain values and her mountain faith. She had tried to persuade Linnea to stay with her. But Linnea knew she never could be away from the mountains too long. They were a part of her that couldn't be taken out. She had always gone back, content with her choice.
        Linnea made her way slowly back to the orchard. The trees were old and gnarly. A few apples still hung high up in the trees waiting for a brisk wind. The bees bumbled about groggily in the september warmth, gathering in swarms on fallen apples. She could hear their drowsy hum. She leaned against a rough trunk. How many happy hours had been spent in this orchard. As far back as she could remember she had loved this place. Nothing was ever so beautiful as the orchard in the spring. All the blossoms of white and pink, falling in drifts. How they had played of princesses and queens. Shady hiding spots in summer, she would climb to a comfy crotch to sit and read a favorite book.
        Suddenly she laughed aloud, remembering.  That was a spring morning. The first of May. They were about twelve and thirteen, her and Liisi. Long ago Grandmother had told them about it. The first day of May. You open your window and lean out, and say, "If you hear a robin sing, you will marry in the spring, if you hear a coffin fall, you will never wed at all." They had done it faithfully for years. Now Liisi was quite anxious that she would have a boy friend that would marry her and take her out of the mountains. She already had her heart set on the young man who came over the mountain every spring selling seed and farm equipment. Linnea was horrified and not wanting to think about Liisi ever going away. What would life be with out her?
       Linnea had it all planned out. Early on that May first morning she snuck out of bed and raced out . It was absolutely clear, blue, the sun just beginning to come over the tree tops. The grass was dewey. She ran out to the woodshed. Catching her breath she waited, peeking from behind the door frame. She had a good view of the loft window. Sure enough, there was Liisi, pushing the window open. She leaned on the sill, looking about her. Her hair was tousled and golden, her arms shapely and her neck smooth ,rising from her white night gown. Her clear voice carried through the morning air. "If you hear a robin sing".... Linnea was ready. As soon as the ditty was finished, she hurled down her piece of cord wood. It made a  true THUNK of wood landing on hard clay. It made her shiver, because it really did sound like a coffin hitting the bottom of the grave.  There was a terrified shriek from the house and another THUNK! The window slammed shut. Linnea didn't know what to do. She glanced around wildly, then took off at a dead run for the house. She slammed through the door and climbed to the loft in record speed. Granmother had beaten her up there. Lisssi lay on the floor in a dead faint. Grandmother was splashing water on her face from the wash basin.
        "What is going on, Linnea?" Grandmother was fuming. Liisis eyes fluttered open. She groaned. Big ears were rolling down her face. Suddenly Linnea had a desparate urge to burst out laughing. She did . "I'm sorry, Liisi, really I am," she gasped between laughs. "If only you could have heard yourself!" Grandmother gave them both a good shaking and went back down the ladder. They had looked at eachother and sat down on the bed and laughed themselves silly. Oh! That had been a morning they would never forget.
         Many times afterward, she had wondered. How could they have been so ignorant as to really think that a robin singing or a coffin falling would have anything to do with their fates? After all, robins sang every day in the spring, and coffins were lowered all the time. Liisi did marry the young man from the seed company, though, and was happy, so it just goes to show! Don't believe old wives tales.
        Linnea made her way back to the barn. It seemed strange to see it so empty and echoing. She thought of days past. She had spent so much time in here. Milking cows, forking down hay, finding eggs, feeding the grunting pigs. The hay mow should be full now, all ready for winter. Stuffed to the rafters, amok with kittens. There was still a trace. A trace of the oiled leather, a trace of manure, a trace of hay sifting down with the sun beams. She saw her son, a little lad with hair like a crows wing and eyes of swedish blue. Eyes like her Grandfather that looked at faraway places. He had loved it here too, but she had persuaded him to go to school and find a career. Already then she had known that this was coming to an end.
       And of course, she saw Normie there, just like the first time. She had been needing help, after Grandfather had died. There was some things she just couldn't do. She needed someone she could depend on. It was June and the barn was shadowy and cool. She was cleaning the cows stall. A shadow paused at the door and she glanced up. He was standing there in the sunshine. He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen, not that she had seen many. He was tall and lithe. His hair hung low over his collar, shiny and raven black. Only a Cherokee could have that hair. It was straight and glossy, teased by the June breeze. He definitely should have had a feather in it. His eyes also were bright and black, his nose perfectly shaped. His shirt was open at the neck ,his skin  smooth and amber, like coffee with a little cream.
       She straightened up and wiped her hands off on her apron. He held out his hand. "Normie ," he said, "I hear your looking for help.""I am, indeed," she had answered. They had arranged it all. He would get room and board and half of whatever profits they might get. He would sleep in the barn and come in for meals. He was soft spoken, kind to the animals, knew how to do things and he worked hard. Often they worked together, and they sat at table twice a day. He never said much about himself, and she wondered sometimes, if he was hiding something. She was anamored of him, no matter how she tried to talk herself out of it. They liked and respected each other. She was older than him, and not getting any younger.
       Sometimes in the evening they sat together on the porch and she read him books until it got too dark. Harvest was done, winter was on its way, she didn't want him to leave, because she liked having him around. She didn't have alot for him to do in the winter, but she would need him again in the spring. It was Liisi who had suggested it." Ask him to marry you," she had written. "That will solve it." So she had. "Linnea, I am not the marrying kind, and I'm definitely not your kind. I can't even read or write. All my life has been spent on the road, criss crossing the country. Staying a few months here or there. I don't want to stay here forever." Linnea took a deep breath. She thought it would be worth it even if he did only stay a while. It was a risk she would take. So they had gone into town and got married. It was a lovely, long winter they spent. Two years slipped by. One November day, Normie slung his bag over his shoulder and stood on the porch.
        He kissed her gently. "Thank you, Linnea, I've had a wonderful time. But now its time for me to go. Don't cry. I'll always remember you." And he had walked off down the road. That open road that was his real home, that had been callling to him for awhile now. Linnea knew that. He never turned back, just swung off, whistling into the wind. She never saw him again. It was in December, though that she knew she was pregnant.
         Linnea walked back to her rocker on the porch. Old memories always came back to that. That gripping fear and joy that had filled her heart at that moment. Oh, those months that followed, hollow and lonely and cold and afraid. If it hadn't beeen for Liisis Wednesday letters, she didn't know how she would have made it. Linnea smoothed the quilt over her knees. Here was no record of Normie or his child. The quilt was made before they had come into her life. She had named him Lars, after her Grandfather, and they had had a good life here in the mountains. Now she didn't see him that much, he lived away, but their love was the tie that binds. She had thought that the years would fade that picture of Normie, standing at the barn door, but it was still as vivid as ever. The old quilt had faded much more than that.
          When Lars was older, she had taken him up the hill and they had sat among the gravestones, shimmering white in the sunshine.Peaceful and quiet as always, they drank coffee and talked of cabbages and kings. She saw his eyes, those same faraway blue eyes of Grandfather, looking at visions that she could not see. She knew they were looking at two different things. He was seeing a future and she could only see the past. Linnea showed him his heritage that day, all that could be his, but now it could not be had with what she and Grandfather had done. If he wanted to keep it he would have to work hard some other way.
        Lars smiled at her that day. He had his fathers smile. It could charm you. He told her all his plans and dreams. How he would work hard to keep this place in the mountains, and she had to be the one to have faith now, to believe in this child of her love for a man.
        The afternoon was waning. Linnea finished her letter. "I will come and see you, Liisi," she wrote. "The next time Lars comes home, he will take me over the mountains. We will see each other one more time, before we leave our earthly homes. And then when we meet again, we will have crossed all the mountains and waded through the Jordan over on the other side."
        Linnea folded up the quilt to go inside, she folded it slowly, seeing each peice not as a quilt square but as a person, a day, a year , a crazy quilt of Grandfather Lars, Grandmother, her mothers wedding dress, her fathers coat, dresses from when her and Liisi were babies,curtains that had hung in the kitchen window, blankets from long ago beds. She had never made a quilt after this one. She had been too busy working the farm, keeping the faith. She wondered, should she regret it? But she thought, no. There is a box in  my closet with all Liisis letters, and a box in her closet with all of mine. One day they can read them, and know what life was like. They will become familiar with all that we know. They will have a crazy quilt of letters. They will know that though we are far apart, we were always together in our hearts.  
        This story is for Margaret and Jessie. They knew about God and love and the North Carolina mountains.They knew about sisters. They have crossed all the mountains and waded over Jordan.Thank you, Margaret and Jessie.


Friday, October 19, 2012

October in the Raggedy Garden

            October. Its always been the month that I love best. And look how the setting sun glows, turning everything into sunshine and shadow. The morning sun, in October is weak, and cool and misty. The afternoon sun is brassy and blinding, but,  oh! The setting sun can make you cry from its beauty and loveliness.  The star filled nights, too. Especially now, in the dark of the moon , when the nights are frosty and clear. You can see the magnitude of the stars, immeasurable, uncountable, so far away, looking so close. It seems you could reach up and grab one.
                Sometimes even I, Raggedy Garden dweller that I am, follow the road, in October. Old New England roads that wander to a time gone by, with only the trees and the birds, and the squirrels. Only the deer and the bears and the turkeys. Only the fallen leaves, the ruts and the rocks. They beckon me to follow them to Octobers past. Young Octobers, young love,  a rainy wedding night in the pacific northwest. Fun Halloweens, before they turned evil, when we roamed in cold Minnesota starshine, dressed like pilgrim girls and Indian braves, and came home glowing with happiness, health and a bag full of candy. Octobers when you could rake a pile of leaves and have a bonfire with them and breathe in that smokey October smell. Octobers with new babies. Octobers with snowstorms. October, that month of every thing .
        The October road might lead to town. An old New England town, with a brick mill building, a dam on the river, where power is made, a cozy restaurant, two hundred year old houses, and children and old folks walking in the street. Or it might lead to a pond, surrounded by birches and oaks and maples, the mirrored reflection flung down at their feet. Perhaps it will bring you to a barn. A weathered and shabby building with the roof falling in and the windows broken, the dooor hanging askew. Some other October it was filled with fagrant hay, boucolic cows, farming implements and kittens. They are all still here, you know. You have to look with October eyes.
          Rainy October days. Yes! I'll take them. The colors glow in the fog and the mist rises and swirls. The rain drops dimple the ponds and the smoke puffs out of many chimneys.The garden looks seer and empty. The hops vine rattles its brown fragile flowers in the wind. The swing, too, creaks, empty and forlorn in the October gusts. The goldfinches and sparrows crowd the bird feeder and peck the grit in the drive. This October night the rain thunders on the roof, and streams down the windows. Inside, the fire crackles in the stove, coffe steams in my cup, a candle flickers and I dream with a book open in my lap.
          After the rain, the sun comes with its prisms and pearls, every rain soaked branch, leaf ,blade of grass, lies quivering beneath the rays. October, full of grace and beauty, full of beginings and endings, full of color and darkness. May you always have an October heart, wild and free and warm and sheltering.

     Humble thanks to Robin Ashley for these more than beautiful October pictures.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September in the Raggedy Garden

      September. September means seventh month. That's because the ancient roman calendar year started with March. It makes sense. March is when everything wakes up and starts living again. Somehow, things got a little mixed up! Oh, but when I hear September, I hear a different sound. A smokey, warm, delicious sound, An end of summer sound. September mornings stay dark until seven. Thats when the sun comes shinning up over the hill and into the Raggedy Garden. The breeze sighs softly through the pine trees, so soft you can't hear it unless you really listen. The turkeys come gabbling quietly on the edges of the field, scrabbling through the acorns and fallen leaves. It's a fairly large flock, many different sizes. They blend in. If you don't know to look and listen, you probably won't see them. The dew lies heavy on the grass. It takes a long time before it dries.

         It's time to start putting the Raggedy Garden to bed for the winter. I know I should be out there filling the garden house with clay pots , fountains, all the fragile things that can't be left out in the cold and the snow. I go out, but I get distracted, and  sit in the swing, and dream. The mellow September sunshine, the breeeze with just a hint of coolness, the musty, damp fall smells, they distract me. The dandelion fluff and the monarch butterflies that drift past, rising and dipping as they go. The raucous gang  of crows winging aross the garden....did you know that a bunch of crows are officially called a 'murder' of crows? Now, isn't that delightful?....The blue jays, too, now fly in noisy crowds. All summer they have been sneaking about in nefarious pastimes. Now they distract me with their racket and their coats of blue.
           The Autumn Clematis has climbed up and over the roof, a huge cloud of sweet whiteness. The cone flowers and sunflowers still bloom. The alyssum has come into its own, the fairy roses and the pansies are back enforce.The leaves come slowly twirling down, landing willy nilly where they will. Red leaves, orange leaves, yellow ones and brown. Some mottled and splotched, not deciding which color to be. A walk along the edges of the woods is rife with crunching and rustling as I step on acorns and shuffle through the leaves.

         Now, for coffee, hot cider, tea or hot chocolate. An amber cup that glows in the September sunshine. A picnic in the Raggedy Garden. Homemade maple oatmeal bread for sandwiches, spicy cookies and crunchy apples. feasting indeed! Frost warnings means bringing houseplants back indoors.  I sigh to think I must go around shutting windows, and digging out the flannel sheets. Can summer really be over, so soon? The nights start out starry and bright, but the cool night air makes for misty dawns. Even after the sun comes up, I can see where the river runs by the line of mist that rides across the valley. Flocks of  geese have been passing by . In the gloaming, that brief time between daylight and dark. I hear them, far up, and lonely, calling , calling to the vagabond hearts.
        So I dream of summers past and holidays that are coming, remembering old friends, old attics, old songs. seeing old roads and hearing old fires crackling in the dusk. Old books, they too have the musty September smell. There will be time, now to curl up and read an old favorite. Harvest these, all things September, in this month of the harvest moon!




Monday, September 10, 2012

On Flanders Pond

         Did I ever tell you that I love this place? This serene and hushed cove where I have been fortunate enough to spend a few days the end of many summers? Fragrant with the scented balsam , cedar and hemlock. Wrapped in the misty foggy mornings. Dappled by blue and gold days of sunshine. Sleeeping in the coolness of clear starlit midnights. Whispered to by waves, and breezes. Fed by the bounty of the sea. I took no pictures of the eagle, nor the loons, but let me draw them with words. No picture could do justice to the eagle. Early in the morning, all shadowy and still, he dips and dives for his breakfast. When the sun comes up, he soars and wheels, flashing his colors, and he dips and dives again. The water drops fall like diamonds from his wings as he mounts the air and flies to his tree top. That highest tree top across the way. There he sits, all hunkered and fierce, and he screams his wild and mighty scream. The loon will swim by in the day light. He's huge and bright, and he skims across the water, dives deep and comes up again a far, far piece away from where he went down. But he's quiet. You never hear him in the day time. It is only then, in the misty mysterious midnight , with the fog hiding all the world, then you hear him. His long lonely tremelo, his mournful wailing, sobbing song. It fills the night. It echoes over the waters. It cries into the forest and the camps and the pond and the sky. Remember in the Heidi story when Heidi asks the Grandfather "Why does the eagle scream so?" And the Grandfather answered that when he sits up there in the clean pureness of nature and he looks down with his keen eyes and sees the dirt and the wretchedness and the pettiness of man and what he has done to Gods world, then he has to scream down at us to tell us his disgust. I think perhaps the loon, too, as he glides about in the daylight and sees what a mess we make? Then at night he cries out against us , laughing and sobbing at how we have continually ruined and ignored the world that God made.
      Isaiah the prophet comforts us with these words " But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
          The long wet dock is a must. Here the kids and the dogs run. Once you have heard bare feet on the dock, you will never forget the sound. It will ever bring back to you memories of that great sploosh when you get to the end, and dive in. The way the water got in your nose when your brother ran up behind you, and pushed you off. The way the boat thumps against it when you got back from fishing. The way the little water birds hopped across it. The way the frogs chugged at dusk. The way the fishing poles leaned against the posts. The dreams you dreamed as you dozed there in the sunshine, the picnics you had there , all sandy and wet. Everyone should have a shadowy dock to pull out from their memories when they get old and sad.
        The little house out back, so necessary to camp life. Here the sun light dapples the trees and the forest floor. It's not really so bad, either. At night, when you go out with your flashlight, tripping over roots, feeling the kiss of the night breeze, hearing the owls talking and the water lapping against the shore and slapping the sides of the john boat. Then you go back up the trail in to the house, trip over the dogs, and shiver with that aaahhhh feeling of crawling safe and snug under the quilt.

        The fishing fun begins after dark. The tiki torch sheds a warm glow over the dock. The night sky is full of stars. Our glow-in-the-dark bobbers streak over head like fiery meteors as we cast them into the wind. They float , red glimmers in the black water until a fish is on, and then they disappear and send us dashing for the poles. Everything looks different in the starshine. Shadowy and secretive, soft and peaceful. Our voices carry over the water. Our laughter sounds lilting and far away. We fill a bucket with perch , leaving the bucket filled with water until morning. Then the master fillet man goes to work. Fish fry coming up!
       The campfire flickers and glows. It crackles and sizzles. It sends a smokey fragrance blowing across the pond. A camp fire is friendly. It goes way back, back to Indians and pioneers and mountain men and cowboys. Men have hunkered over campfires, cooking fish and game, boiling tea and coffee, warming hands and feet, drying clothes and jerky, keeping the wild things at bay. Thats the things you see in the flicker of a campfire. All those lonesome, friendly times and places, all those long ago dreams and faces. Thats what a campfire conjures up.We have a late night snack of blackened hotdogs and crispy, melting in the middle marshmallows. Then its into the sauna. Hot steamy goodness cleansing our bodies and softening pur muscles and minds. A brisk scrub with a bar of Irish Spring, a run down the sand and into the water, cool and senuous on the skin. Who doesn't sleep the sleep of the pure heart after that?
         Going clamming at low tide, we are. The boys catch a pile of lobsters off the floating dock. Now we will eat like royalty! Steamers and fresh lobster dipped in butter. We invite Tinker, who lives next door. It's Tinkuh, I believe. Born in Bar Harbor, lived there all his eighty one years. Has a camp out here at the pond to get away from the craziness of a Bah Hahbuh summer. He brings us a bluberry gingerbread that he has just made. Spicy, fragrant, moist, warm. We add a dab of ice cream and we lick our buttery fingers and listen to him tell about eighty years of Maine living.

        Low tide, we girls head for the sea glass beach, buckets on our arms. We walk the sand with our eyes on the ground, stopping to bend and pick up a treasure and straighten up again, the shell seekers dance at low tide by the sea. Each piece that goes into our bucket is a small piece of a large story that we will never know. Someone, some where, some time, treasured this cup or plate or bottle. How long has lain broken , washed by the waves and the tides all over the world, before we pick up these fragments, so smooth and softened by time?

         Do I have to leave? Well, I know I doI know I wouldn't appreciate it if it wasn't so rare. But I have my memories to carry me over to next year. Beautiful place by the sea. Giver of happiness, giver of dreams. God bless my family on Flanders Pond!                                                                          

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


The woodshed. The shingles are worn and warped and some are missing. The door is crooked with rusty hinges. The windows are broken, the glass gone. The floor is part dirt, part cracked and broken concrete. This is a remnant, a piece of a life before I came here. I have walked in and out that door a million times, I think. The remnants of a once new tightly made door. I pile wood in here every fall and all winter I take down the piles and lug them into the house, remnants of trees that grew green and tall in the woodlot. They feed the maw of the stove, merry crackling fires, wisps of smoke, and lastly, ashes. Ashes that I spread as poor mans fertilizer in the Raggedy Garden. Remants of warmth and cooking and flame.

             When I open the door the sun is shining through the remnants of the window, streaking the wood pile with golden light, remnants of  golden fall day. There is not so much wood left in here now, in the remnants of summer. I need to get stacking. But today I stand in that stream of sunshine and look around. The walls are cluttered with the remnants of many years of burning wood. Axes with broken handles, old crosscut saws, oil cans ,black and smeary with years of dripping oil. Old wooden boxes, old tobacco cans full of nails, a rusty shovel with a chipped head, a rake with most of its teeth missing. Lacy spiderwebs grace the corners. A pile of tire chains is heaped on the floor, remnants of old. Does any one use tire chains any more? Sawdust dusts everything. An old chewed up glove sits high up on the pile. I can hear the rustle of a mouse, and a chipmunk peers at me from the doorway. A bee bumbles in the glassless window, a groggy fall bee who flies without rhyme or reason. There is a shelf above the window. It's higher than my head. I stand tippy toe and crane my neck.
           The sign hangs there above tin shovels, tiny oil cans, a tin funnel, coffee cans, an aluminum pot filled with wedges and jugs. A remnant of our family, from long ago. R. Somero. Fancy script. Purposefully serrated edges. Remnants of the chains that it hung all those years before. It hung at a camp in northern Michigan, on the lake. There was a boat and fishing equipment and rustic living accomodations. Boone remembers fondly the time he spent there, mostly with his grandad. Fishing and cooking up their fish and sleeping with the slap, slap of the water against the shore. Remnants of memories, hidden in everyday living. Fragments of the past here in the shadow of the roof where the sun shine never can reach. I'd take it out, hang it for the world to see, still smooth and sturdy, speaking to all and sundry. " Here I  am still, R. Somero. I lived and I died and I left you the remnants. Share them so the chain goes unbroken   and the circle goes round." He likes it hidden there, where only he can find it, and remember....
           Broken window, bringer of light, soon I will pile the wood in front of you , high up where I can barely reach, and no sun will shine in here til winter is past and there are only remnants again.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Perfectly Peanut Butter Cookies (Gluten Free)

     I 've had this recipe hanging around for , probably years. But I never made them because it just seemed unrealistic.  Any way, I needed to make some cookies, and had used up all my flour because I got a big Nissu order. So, I thought, give a whirl, Annie. Much to my surprise, they came out absolutely perfect! Here goes.....
                                             1 cup peanut butter
                                              1 cup sugar
                                              1 tsp. baking soda
                                               1 egg
                        Mix together. Drop by spoonful on sprayed cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes.
       Thats it folks! I crisscrossed them with a fork dipped in sugar just because thats how peanut butter cookies are supposed to look.
           So easy. It only made 18 cookies. Good sized ones. So for a lot of people you would want to double this. I also left them on the pan for a couple minutes before I transfered them to cooling racks. They were nice and firm, didn't crumble.
              Now for a cup of good coffee, a good cookie, and a good book! I like the way you can see the reflection of the coffee and cookie in the book cover! Boy, am I glad I ran out of flour! Make these and enjoy!