Tag Archives: Memories

Mid-August Adventures Outside

Our phone/internet was down for four days. A gift of quieting the house. I did, however, have adventuring to do. One event even got a sidetrack to the neighborhood where I grew up.

Everything changes, of course. I’m always interested in the revitalization of the old communities of the city.  My parents moved the family to the home I remember about 1950. That street is about at the horizon point in this photo – 2 long blocks. Times beyond counting, I walked down this street, to school, to church, to shop, to catch the streetcar and then the bus. (New water lines and paving in process)

IMG_6407 The tall hedge ends the block in a funny point and a Catalpa tree grows there – it always has. No doubt age and weather have taken their toll but the tree, while severely pruned, still flourishes. Those are countless seed pods hanging down among the heart shaped leaves.

IMG_6404 We would cross the street and continue the walk   down 4 more long blocks before crossing the main street and then uphill one short block to my favorite place. IMG_6409 No, it doesn’t look like much today in its reconstruction, but then, it was a place of wonders. The Public Library. I read that this branch opened in 1920, a gift from Andrew Carnegie, and by 1950 was already too small for the community it served. But, for me, it opened doors to worlds. It was the place where I met so many new friends! The Five Chinese Brothers, Beany Malone, Cherry Ames and so many other characters and their communities of friends.

Oh what a joy when the new library was located just across the street from the Catalpa tree! Only two blocks away and an easy stop on the way home from most anywhere! Don’t let the ugly façade fool you, even more wonders were waiting inside!

In those long ago days, libraries were closed on Sundays and when nothing else was planned, and all the books were read, we could sometimes persuade Dad to take a Sunday afternoon drive. Frequently, it would be in the country side I now call home, but sometimes, it would be through Loch Raven, which you may recognize as one of my very special places.

IMG_6394

The Drive is closed to motorists on weekends these days and there are not many places to stop. One can no longer walk out on the overlook at the edge of the dam and feed the carp who live in the lake, but, it still is my weekday peaceful adventuring place. I am grateful for the blessing of long connection.

I’m ever mindful of the privilege of living in the country and being able to reflect back on nature’s changes on this piece of land we call home as well as being able to roam the back roads of this beautiful state.

These reflect the last few days of adventuring near and farther:

2015-08-11

 

Unexpected visitors in the garden

It was oppressively hot for several days so I had good excuse for not being outside. Strolling the internet, I came to Martha’s place and found her hints on cleaning shears and knives with white vinegar. It is embarrassing to admit how grungy my tools get, but here is the sad truth IMG_6139 just a small photo; they are so badly in need. I put on an apron and gathered my supplies and the results were gratifying. A rinse, dry in the sun and lube in the old “joints” and they are ready for work again. IMG_6140

There is no photo to prove it but I would not make up this terrible news. I was sitting at the kitchen table when something caught my eye and I was so glad the door was closed as the now resident groundhog brushed up against the screen. I think he was not expecting to see me and he turned and run down the path, across the yard and back to the shed, where he perched on the wall and I was glad I could not hear him ranting his displeasure. We are sure he lives underneath the shed and while he does, I don’t go back there. Do you know that Groundhogs can climb trees? And if trees, why not to the top of sheds with trees around them? My nephew said he saw them in trees on his property a few years ago, I hoped he was just joking, but not. If you have an interest in them, here is fascinating  information – the thought of them having homes like a mine under my yard is disconcerting.

And now, IMG_6157. This may not look like much, but that is a tunnel crafted along the rock path. Now there is one down the other side and more branching off in all directions. Moles.

One of our first years here, we caught one. I thought it was cute. I was the ignorant city girl who grew up with story book animals.  I would not let my husband kill it, I thought if he just took it to the very back of our three acres, it would wander happily into the field beyond. It probably did. Where in the way of storybook moles, it was hailed as a returning hero by its brethren who followed him in a great pioneering contingent to fully invade the yard several days later.

Add these to the daily deer who huff at me when I am bold enough to step outside.

To console myself, each day of the heat wave I brought in day lilies for the table. Soothing consolation in each bloom. Distraction too from the pending war on the invaders.IMG_6152

 

 

 

Ordinary?

It was an ordinary trip to the store when a casual glance at a porch stirred the faintest of memories – play time on a porch under the peasant false sky of blue ceiling.

And so I’ve been thinking of blue, and sky.

sky

Blue can be calm and comforting wrapped in old denim and chambray or soft baby blue blankets. But then, blue is authority in uniforms and robes of royalty. There’s blue in Antarctic ice and blue in flame; feeling blue sadness and the cheery blue sky of sunny days.

Blue touches earth in blossoms  and takes flight in butterflies and birds that make my heart soar heavenward.

blue

The vast sky is an ever changing palette of shade and hue. How many ways we try to describe it! Powder blue, azure, heavenly blue, sky blue, navy, celestial blue, indigo, cobalt, azure, periwinkle, sapphire… The shades are clear or hazy, murky, stormy, threatening, comforting, cold…

Blue wraps my world in beauty.

blue eye grass

Paint Box – yellow

Recently a writing prompt surfaced in an old journal and drew me in again – Color.

I find that the spring light makes color more vibrant, more uplifting to my soul.

If you had asked me about yellow, well, at first I wouldn’t have much to say except it is a cheerful color. But reflection tells me it is woven through my adult life – a favorite dress in soft yellow, then yellow gingham curtains and yellow walls in a baby’s room, a fun yellow car, bouquets of dandelions in a chubby fist, a yellow bike, vintage yellow crocks in the kitchen… a touch here and there.

collage in yellow

The yellows of early spring glow. More memories glow too: puckery lemons with peppermint stick straws at the Flower Mart in Baltimore, Mom’s lemon meringue pies with toasty brown peaks atop creamy fillings – best fresh from the oven… Do you have memories in yellow? Do they bring happy smiles to your face now?

pseudo iris

A Simple Gift

snow day    The words of the old Shaker song go round in my head. Finding myself in “the place just right” seems hard some days – like the other day when I realized that the inkjet cartridge had leaked black all over lovely wood and then I picked up the wrong can of paint and though I thought it looked a bit dark – it was wet… I went on painting. And then I had to paint again. <sigh> I know, in the grand scheme of life, not so big a deal but it is the little things some days that seem to overflow the cup. What do you do with those days? When the wind blows hard and there are even waves in the birdbath.

IMG_4512

In 1985, it was really big deal to have our beloved Nana diagnosed with dementia. We tried keeping her at home with helpers, but the disease took her away in giant steps. Too soon, for her safety and well being, it became a necessity to place her in a care facility. It was a time of busy grief.

Christmas was coming. I had so much on my mind that day I drove the beltway – from where and to where – I no longer remember. But on that drive, the thought came to me that we could give her an album quilt for Christmas. Only one problem. I had no idea what an album quilt really was but I thought of blocks, large ones, that would tell a story, the story of her life.

I went to a small quilt shop with my idea and the staff was so helpful with the project from beginning to end; even supplying fabric from personal stashes when I cut the border fabric wrong and there was not enough to finish.

I sent fabric and the plan out to family and everyone worked on squares that said something about her life. Everyone worked quickly, taking comfort in being able to do something, anything, to bring some comfort to her, and ourselves. Soon, all the blocks were back and it was time to make the quilt.

I had never made a quilt before…

Sewing the blocks and borders together was the easy part. Then came backing and batting and I recall taping it to my kitchen floor as the only place to stretch it out and layer it. Finally it was pined together and ready to quilt.

I had never made a quilt before…

I called my friend Lucy. She was a Southern girl with a country background. Did she know how to quilt? “Quilting should enhance your design, don’t do too much.” What did that mean?! I stitched some, and then some more. Then came the binding – and somehow – it was done – by Christmas.Nana's quiltThe quilt became a great gift to us as we felt we could wrap her in our love. Nana used the quilt for 4 1/2 years. At first the staff thought it a nuisance, then it changed their view of this wonderful woman. It gave her an identity, a life; it became a conversation point. It reminded them that she was loved and cared about.

There is nothing fancy about the quilt but it is now a family treasure, faded, worn and soft.

And today? That gift to Nana, opened a space for me. For when the wind blows hard, the ink spills, the paint goes on wrong… there is a calm that comes with fingering fabrics, hearing the whirl of the machine.

                   quilt     quilt

We woke to snow today, rather like a celebration to remember Nana on her birthday, with love.

Loretta    1906 – 1990

Nana

Searching for my voice in 1920

A few weeks ago I saw a notice for an upcoming on-line writer’s workshop. One evening, free, and an interesting topic – sounded easy and fun.

Marilyn Bousquin of Writing Women’s Lives posed thoughtful questions in the workshop, “Writing Our Grandmothers, Discovering Ourselves: Women, Silence & Voice. Before the workshop, she had us sleuthing our female heritage. What country did these women come of age in? What year did that country grant women the right to vote? Since I’ve done some family genealogy, those answers were easy to find.

I had been looking forward to the evening of hearing my voice as I analyzed their lives. I thought I would be exploring my life through Grandmother Anna. But then the second prompt came and I could only think of Grandmother Amelia. I didn’t want to think about her but it seemed important so I wrote my letter to her:

“Dear Grandmother Amelia,

This is Elaine. I didn’t know you well and I didn’t want to either. I was too young to know your story or have any understanding of your pain and loss. Your gruff voice and “children should be seen and not heard” attitude frightened my shy little self and hiding from you became habit. I don’t know that we ever had a real conversation, not even during those months when you lived in our home. I wish we had, I think.

When we cleaned out the garage at the home place, I found letters carefully saved in an old covered dish.  Two letters written by Bro. Albert to you and Grandfather. I was struck by his compliments to you on your writing.letter

I wonder now if his words of affirmation thrilled your heart. When this was written, you did not yet have the right to vote. I can’t find many facts, but based on records found, I suppose that you, like your 14 siblings, had an elementary school education before going off to the mills to work. I found that at 18 you had advanced to the rank of ‘weaver’ at the silk mill. I doubt you had many choices in your life until you married. 

Amelia

Other things were found in that garage and I’ve come to admire your thirst to increase your home skills and crafts as evidenced by the pamphlets and instruction booklets carefully saved. 

I want you to know that the quilts you made for my siblings touched my heart with
comfort as a child. The long gone yo-yo quilt inspired me to stitch hundreds of
them for a coverlet. 

 yo-yo quilt project

The quilts you saved in your trunk were given to your great-granddaughters. And the unfinished top – for William? – I stitched a plaid floral medallion on it, quilted it, and your daughter used it in her final years. I like to think it brought you close to her. 

shirting quilt

I have lots of questions now. I wonder why you said “no” to the thought of your daughter attending High School. Was it your own insecurity or that need for each child to have the same as the others who went before? You know she chose to have her own voice and went to night school, graduating just shy of her 21st birthday.

 Amelia

Amelia, how I wish you had used your voice, told your stories, written a diary or journal. I would have listened. I would have known you and your family, my family. And me, I think I would have been free to have confidence as a storyteller and writer.”

I was surprised to find myself feeling emotional while writing this letter that night.  We went on through the workshop and the overall experience was very good. And the next day I started another program, Intentional Blogging with Jeff Goins. His webinar on Blogging Personalities had been very encouraging. I had my niche, I was happy. I was excited to sign on to this program, tweak a few things and move along as a blogger.

But things had been set in motion within my soul and I didn’t know it. And I was silenced.

Last Sunday, we drove to the river. One of the same roads led to my Uncle and Grandmother’s home. When it came time to turn off for the park, I was overwhelmed with such a longing as I cannot explain – oh, for one more chance to walk into her kitchen, one more chance to look and really see her. Amelia.  I wonder if she was a story teller, I wonder about her style of writing, I wonder if she wrote to her many siblings. I have only wonders and complex emotions churning. There is a power in writing I don’t always like.

Grandmother Amelia, gone from my life for 48 years and yet, not gone at all; I still don’t think I like you.

 Amelia

Apple joy

applesThere were always apples in the house. Dad took one every day with his lunch and there were apples for ours, if we wanted them. Come fall, there would be bushels of fresh picked from country orchards and sometimes pie for Sunday suppers. But my favorite memory of comfort food is always hot applesauce on buttered toast for breakfast.

These Gala apples cooked into a lovely sauce which has provided rich desserts of applesauce on split buttered biscuits. Simple fare, perfect comfort for darkening autumn evenings.

I like to use sweet apples so no additional sweetener is needed, just cinnamon or apple pie spice to suit my fancy.

As the sweet fragrance of apple filled the house, I remembered the grace sung at many a Girl Scout camp meal – The Johnny Appleseed Prayer.

Oh the Lord is good to me,

and so I thank the Lord,

for giving me the things I need,

the sun, the rain and the appleseed,

the Lord is good to me.

                                                                         Amen!

Cloudy with a hope of change

Last night’s storm left a slow-to-lift cloud cover. Waiting in traffic, I watched it hovering behind the communication and power lines that cross here. I thought about how sometimes mental or emotional dark clouds seem to hang like a backdrop for life and communication.

clouds

As I drove on, I remembered that as a child, stories and poetry gave me the impression of softness and comfort in clouds and then how shocked I had been on my first plane ride through clouds to find them anything but! Turbulence is hidden within.

clouds

Those are not cotton balls! Unseen turbulence swirls in all the beauty. Unseen turbulence swirls on earth these days too. It is unsettling to say the least. For your life, I pray that the storms pass and you will see the earth is refreshed, the air is cleared, and a beautiful day awaits you.Clouds

 

I think I’ll call her Goldie-locks

Her real name is Marigold. Youngish and still a bit skittish with strangers, our new Gran-pup came to visit with her mom and dad. Marigold was rescued a few months ago and then adopted into the family a few weeks ago. This is her first visit and we found her to be a lovely houseguest, quiet and polite. Isn’t she lovely? The sound of her nails on the floors brought back so many memories of our Ada and the silence when she had gone was loud.

IMG_3746

August days bring parties and birthdays and here in the “land of pleasant living”, steamed blue crabs covered in seasoning are on the table. Smiles are on faces and warm memories are being made. I hope you are enjoying these last warm days of summer! IMG_3751

July 3

The day started too hot, too humid; the heavy still disturbed by cicadas calling.

A single blue hydrangea bloom glows; the extreme winter freeze caused the old blooming wood to die off many of the hydrangeas. Endless Summer

By 5 pm, darkness had closed in, then thunder rolled and crashed across the sky chasing lightening flashes. I count the seconds between, marking the distance. I remember my parents’ front porch on the house at the top of the hill where I’d stake claim to the chaise and watch the storms rolling in from the west streak the sky with jagged lights and feel the gratitude of rain laden breezes cooling hot skin on summer evenings.

So I went outside and sat under cover and listened, quieting myself. In the midst of the storm the hummingbird came and drank and sparrows flew in for dinner too. None seemed concerned by the din or rain. Their Father had provided bloom and feeder and with that they were content. I went in and cooked our simple meal, it was delicious.

The rain continues; the air, 20 degrees cooler, refreshes.