Odes to September are plentiful, the season our souls awaken, our hearts begin to warm. In September the mildness of the morning begins to linger longer, and I tend to linger longer over my coffee. Evenings, while not yet cool, allow more grace to be out in the garden, than during the previous months’ blasts. Shadows of the day grow longer.
September is a month of hopeful anticipation. We know the heat will end, eventually. In September, we are getting closer to being on the brink of autumn weather. We hope this year, for more rain. Red, orange and yellow autumn leaves are always longed for, a phenomenon we don’t enjoy each year here. We seem to begin to gather in, instinctively perhaps from early generations, who stored and shored up in earnest for winter, during September.
Flower gardens have matured and hold a banquet for our eyes, in the fall of our days. Major garden chores are over for the time being. Milder weather brings a new flush of blooming to savor. Summer’s freedom for the children, days and nights of ease, have come to a halt. Studies must be tackled once again.
The hummingbirds in my garden are more plentiful in number in this season. We’ll have hordes of them this month. They linger longer and, while the fight for dominance continues with fierce dive bombing of the others, we now see them numbering two, or even three or more on the nectar filled saucers scattered about the garden. Perhaps they are realizing the days of summer are waning, so they share and cooperate, allow sustenance to all for the migration. After spring and summer, they are accustomed to the giants who live here and hover closer and closer, becoming familiar and bold. I’m making a goal, to have one perch on my finger, now or next year.
Time to put away the jars of seashells and the beach towels, and gather in to home; bringing in gourds and pumpkins. Light cotton throws are laundered and folded away for next spring, warm colored, soft, comfy throws are tossed over the sofa. Fall wreaths are hung on doors, welcoming friends and family to gather in. If we concentrate and sit in the quiet, we can nearly see a fire burning golden in the fireplace. Put down the logs – not yet!
If summer is freedom, peaches and blueberries, fall is gathering, bringing in, pulling together. Caramel apples. Hot lattes outdoors on mild days. Football season begins and parents, families, friends gather in stadiums to cheer on their school’s team. Gathering together.
I would prefer not to mention two words that have seemingly become synonymous with the season of fall. Words describing flavors and scents that some find ever so enticing, now interchangeable with the season. But I must, I guess, make note of pumpkin spice. Candles, bath salts, popcorn, cookies, ice cream, coffee creamers, lattes, donuts, argh. The words that now seem to characterize everything fall. I cannot bear the pumpkin spice madness. I know…throw me down and stone me. Just don’t make me sniff or see pumpkin spice again. Ever. I am quite fond of pumpkin pie, with a nice glob of whipped cream on top. Pumpkin cake is a moist, spicy treat. The old pumpkin standards are dandy for me. Y’all go on and pumpkin spice it up. I’ll not begrudge slews of you to live it up when pumpkins spice lattes and coffee creamers hit the aisles of the grocery and coffee shop. I bequeath my allotment to my daughters-in-law. I’ll just think of apple harvests, cider, hot coffee from a thermos and a ride in the country.
Here, in Texas, September is not quite the big change in the seasons. More of a preamble to the change. The promise of change to come. We take the promise to heart and awaken each day hoping for autumn breezes, cappuccinos, and a cold front to bring crisp days in for the fair. Don’t put your sweaters on yet, we still have some very warm days to endure. Just lay one out over the bedroom chair, and gaze at it. Soon. Soon.
This afternoon, while filling my grocery cart with almond milk, orange and cranberry juices, I spotted an orange-colored bottle in the dairy section. Pumpkin Spice Whole Milk.
Reprinted from Blue Ribbon News
I was under the weather this past week, on the mend now and enjoying coffee outside in the mild early morning, with Bob Kilgore, our big black & white kitty. This malaise leaves me wanting only to be still and enjoy the peace of the garden. Blessedly, I feel no urge to leap up to pull a weed or right a drooping frond. This placidity will not last, the work drive will return with recuperation. I will enjoy these moments now.
Swooping over the wall is an enchanting blue and black butterfly, a Swallowtail of some type. She flutters and hovers round the Bougainvillea; currently enjoying its glory day as a stunner. In the dry heat, the thorny ornamental vine flashes its finery. I ought to have grabbed my bird binoculars on my way out of the house! The urge to leap for my phone camera is instantaneous.
Instead, I remain still, coffee in hand. Choosing to sit, in the peace, and simply enjoy the movement, the delight of this creature. She is a winged enchantress, of bold, rich color and graceful maneuverings. I absorb her into my spirit, rather than imprinting her image on a screen, this time.
Black with a rich blue, she traces the breadth and outline of the spreading Bougainvillea as she flutters. She seems intent on not missing a single, fuchsia bract. As the breeze swirls, she moves spot to spot within the spiny, beautiful plant; then up and around - around the silhouette of the spreading branches until a suitable landing spot is decided upon. She has peace, I think. Her sole purpose to pull sustenance from the blooms here in the garden, spread the pollen. My heart stops as she moves away, but she drifts to the Rock Rose then up around the fluffy white Crape Myrtle, before returning again to the Bougainvillea.
Ah, she glides over the wall, into the countryside behind, our time together over for now. I became so involved with her and suddenly, just like that, she has gone. That’s it then. The west corner of the garden, so alive in her a moment ago, now seeming so still, without animate flitting about. No fear. When I look again, the blooms and bees and birds continue to delight.
My husband, looking out over the entire garden the other day, commented, calling our retreat “The Aviary.” Indeed, we do gather numbers of birds and of course, the bumblebees are greedy on all the blossoms.
Butterflies, birds, bees, blooms. All beauties that bring joy, pleasure to my spirit.
Does the butterfly need purpose other than her beauty? Yes, the pollen. As if her beauty isn’t enough? Allure and purpose, magnificent design. She glides in briefly, with grace and charm, delighting those who witness the magic, should she land on our hand, our life, for only a moment. A brief instant, exquisite, generous delicacy lands with us, fills our eyes with a spark of magic, a memory.
We don’t soon forget a butterfly lighting on us for a few moments. I recall a charmer surrounding my granddaughter one summer day. The butterfly seemed enchanted by our blonde pixy, who gently accepted the attention as the feather light, winged nymph landed in her hair, on her hand, her check, then accepting the offer of a bit of jam from her fingertip. I am certain the butterfly was madly in love. The picture in my memory so very dear.
A butterfly joined me on mild, sunny day last autumn. Reclining back into my sun faded Adirondack chair on the grass, glass of iced tea perched on the broad, wooden arm, and book in my hand, I could not concentrate on the words. The serenity of the fall garden, blue sky and cool air luring me away to another existence. I did not need a story at that moment. The moments of calm and peace were plenty to absorb. Until the butterfly came along – to captivate my thought. A friendly sort, perhaps lagging in her migration, she hovered about keeping me in good company, lingering in the garden. I relaxed, in her flitty presence and she landed on my bare toe. (Shoes do not go onto my feet until the season becomes too chill. Till then it is bare tootsies or Birkenstocks.) From my toe, she moved up to my knee. Flitting up again, she landed on the rim of my tea glass, then onto my outstretched hand. She stayed with me a good while, marching up and down my arm, perching on my finger, my knee. We had a brief affair. Then suddenly she was gone. Off to drift in the heady Abelia blooms, Autumn Sage and vibrant Rock Rose, before gliding out of my life, over the wall and across to the trees beyond.
This morning I sat in the summer air, thankful for the breeze. Quietly viewing the shenanigans of the Hummingbirds, Finch, Cardinals, Chickadees that populate this “aviary”. Mockingbirds squabble on the fence, tiny Barn Swallows (I think) in the new myrtle bushes. I am filled by the fleeting presence of this most elegant butterfly. Carrying her grace to me as she comes to the bounty provided by Mother Nature. She completes this retreat of serenity just with her presence here. Simply being her beautiful self.
I am glad I did not dash in for the camera. I have so enjoyed soaking in the time with her. She remains a jewel in the portion of my brain that amidst the dark and sadness in the world – shines brightly. Cheering me on through whatever struggles, causing me smiles for no reason other than contentment. Beauty, peace, joy exist.
The breeze is calming and the sun beginning to beat down. I wish you a spot of beauty –
better yet – a Glorious Burst of exquisite beauty and joy. A sweet moment of peace in your day.
Reprinted from The Blue Ribbon News
I wandered into the garden this morning to sit with my blank pages, not knowing what I might write. It took moments for the words to come. Please bear with me through another garden column. I try not to write about the garden incessantly, but this time of year (ok, any time of year) words of plants and blooms simply come to me. My mind fills with the garden and stays close to bursting in spring and summer. I tend to blurt out partial sentences to The B.O.B. (Big Old Bear – long suffering husband) such as – “I think I’ll move that Black and Blue Salvia up closer to the front of the garden as it is not doing well in this spot, and then I can put in another Drift Rose, maybe a few Speedwell.” He tends to say “Okaaaay” – steadfastly tolerant, unquestioning, oblivious to which plant and which spot I am bringing to his attention; likely wondering how much I will spend at the nursery next. Sometimes The B.O.B. might attempt at identifying a sweet coral rose as “that red flower”, or a Silver Mist Artemisia as “the round, fluffy looking thing.” He knows four basic colors - red, white, black, blue and sometimes green, and he knows no variations of those basic colors. Mauve, Coral, Pink and Magenta are all Red to the Bear. The Bear is fearful, I am certain, that I will come to bed some night with garden snippers in hand, primed to deadhead anything in sight. This is a silly trepidation, really. My snips are always returned to their spot on the patio.
Days begin in the peace of my garden. Late spring, summer and fall mornings find me outside, with coffee and a kitty. Winter’s chilly mornings, not so much. Mornings (and evenings when I force myself to put down the garden tools) are when I soak in the pleasant result of my self-imposed toil in the garden. The toil which hurts my muscles, causes aches that keep me awake at night, bring stiffness everywhere. Still, I work the garden with a passion. Or is it madness? The end result is loveliness. Always changing - because I am always moving, adding, transplanting, amending, feeding, and some stuff just dies. While I admire a garden that is sculpted and structured, there is not enough life for me there. Life is color, movement, textures. Loose un-sculpted shapes formed by Mother Nature. This is the garden that bursts forth from my labors, overflowing its borders. For others, it is the sculpted, formal design, for many it is rows and rows of beans, tomatoes and zucchini.
Garden labors are not worked sweetly, in clean garden clothes, rolled up sleeves of a crisp chambray shirt, brimmed hat, basket and pristine gloves. My gloves are floral printed and sweet – fresh from the package. Typically, in a matter of moments, they are stained green, brown and soiled, and soon the fingertips wear through. Gloves are hosed off daily and laid on the outside kitchen windowsill, to dry in the sun on the brick ledge. Several pair may be found there at any given time. My arms are marked by sun and the snags of rose thorns or branches. Hands with rough dirty nails, fingers turning lumpy with arthritis. I recently suffered the dividend for gardeners – a rose thorn infection in my finger, it was not pretty. My knees! Insert laughter here. Red and rough, often tender from kneeling in the mulch or on the border stones, while wearing shorts and without using my knee pad. When I come in from the garden there will be garden soil in all crevices. Sweat stings my eyes. If I have worn a hat, it is not pulled off gracefully, freeing swinging, shiny, hair. Rather, a soaked mess, well plastered to my head in places, sticking out in others, emerges from my hat. My clothing wet from sweat and the hose.
More often than not, I require the bags of compost or pea gravel NOW, not when it is convenient to arrange for someone to haul them in for me. I get a big workout, with my trusty garden wagon loaded up. Thus goes the morning, afternoon, evening of a gardener. Night is for putting feet up with a relieved sigh. Tottering off to lay my tired bones in the bed, with a toddy of warm tap water and Aleve.
I am often told “you should be a professional garden planner!” “You could make a living at this!” This might or might not be true. I might have studied, and drawn garden plans as a means to earn my keep. As it is, I am just a backyard gardener, though I love to share the joy. I am pleased to provide tips and plant suggestions with friends and acquaintances. I have been known to draw out garden plans for a few friends. I enjoy sharing in their enthusiasm, seeing others’ gardens flourish, hearing their progress.
My plan was to sleep in today. But poor Bob (Bob the Cat – not to be mistaken for The B.O.B. This is a confusing fact of the Kilgore life. I must frequently remind folks what my long suffering husband’s name actually is, because I so frequently call him The B.O.B., and then throw in a cat named Bob Kilgore for interest.) Bob the Cat did not get outside yesterday, so when I awoke at 6:30, I listened to my caring side and got up for early coffee and a few notes outdoors, while my feline companion wandered the garden.
The coffee is sipped. On a quiet summer morning, the hum of night is replaced with birdsong and a barking dog far away. A lazy song of the cicadas wafts back and forth, long and slow, an old, oscillating sprinkler of sound from one side of the landscape to the other. The relaxing hum a part of summer, just as the heat.
I’ll forgo grasshopper murder this morning as I am feeling lazy. Grasshoppers are the bane of my existence. With maniacal glee, they chomp and chew through vines and leaves, bringing my plants to their knees. Rose of Sharon is now tattered and scrawny looking, though she continues to valiantly put out pink blooms. Bless her heart. Several large, chewing beasts have been located within her limbs and brought to their doom. One of my two treasured Clematis has been gnawed to a stub. Her tender, winding vine and delicate green leaves obliterated by a green or brown crunching creep. They hover in the plants, leaping away from me and laughing, I am certain. There are moments when I become a cursing murderer. The filthy language distracts me from considering that my bare hand is crushing the guts of an insect. Shudder. The best way to obliterate grasshoppers is by hand. I go slowly forth and grab with a mighty fist, all squeamish thoughts generating to murderous rage. I squeeze harder, crush and drop the body. If they show any sign of life – I stomp them. They are wily creatures and will fake death only to laugh and leap yards from me.
I welcome the other insects in the garden. They all have a place. Spiders make webs in corners to capture flies. Praying mantis are growing ever so slowly after hatching on my back porch. I wish they would get large and eat the grasshoppers! Praying mantis do not seem to grow with the speed in which baby grasshoppers turn into destructive fiends. A snake or two might come round, occasionally. They slither on through and we try not to bother each other. They are welcome to down a rat or two if they come across any. Toads are a delight, though if I accidentally step on one barefoot, I will shriek just a little. Anoles - I miss the anoles! They have not yet discovered The Mildscape and I am eager for the day they arrive. Cardinals are treated with highest regard here. Their brilliant red a delight, their shy manners cause them to dash away at the slightest movement. While they are at St Francis’ bowl, cracking into seeds, or dipping into the bird bath, I try to be s t i l l. Not even a movement to try to catch them in a phone photo. The Finch’ come in threes or fours or more, creating a merry ruckus upon arrival, positioning to be first on the feeder. Of course, the bossy hummingbirds delight as they hover and squeak, finally perching on the round red topped vessel of nectar – to tip their beaks in and out sipping or perhaps slurping.
From this old green bench in the back corner, I can view the entire garden. Empress on her shabby green throne. Rather – the slave taking an illicit seat while she ought be pulling sprigs of invading Bermuda, or clipping blooms that are finished. Spread before me, brilliant purple Gomphrena and blooming Abelia are going strong, and the soft pink Summer Phlox is putting up a valiant fight with triple digit heat. My eyes pause on the gorgeously full, brilliant coral Drift Roses, and a darling, orange-coral-peach rose named Easy Does It. I catch the eye of a black and white kitty, Bob, watching me as he enjoys his morning respite in the garden.
The bees bumble about, literally – big round bumble bees, humorous as they wobble and buzz, pulling from the varied blooms the stuff they desire.
My garden though not huge, is fairly expansive, and filled to the brim. It takes approximately half of my backyard, with a sliver of grass between stone garden border and house. Trees dot the three sides, bushes and roses bloom throughout. Many of the flowers are natives, drought resistant, and butterfly – hummingbird draws. As I look across, it is not a stagnant view, but full of movement and one buzzes by my hand! The cicada buzz abruptly stops, leaving a sudden silence. Now I can hear the birdsong again!
I worked this place from a fully sodded yard, breaking ground just a year ago. I had sod removed and stone borders installed. Then I amended the soil and planted, nurtured, waited the winter long wondering what would survive. A joyous greeting was given to the green sprouts pushing through the mulch in spring sunshine.
For gardeners, the garden is life sustained, lived each day of the year long. We make the time for our garden, big or small. Gardeners possess the willingness, the passion, and the need to nurture.
It has been said, and I wish I knew who said it first, that the gardener does not nurture the garden with her attentions. Rather it is the garden who nurtures the gardener. I know this to be true. In the garden there is always purpose. Always struggle. Always reward.
You need not have a large, labor inducing patch, such as the madness in my yard. Only a spot of green, a tree perhaps, a small patch to dig in or a pot of flowers, maybe some grass. Set your chair there. Feel the sun rising higher in the morning. Feel the bit of breeze move across your shoulder and through your hair. Listen to the birds, and the cicadas. Feel your body relax, heartrate slow, breath ease as you enjoy the Earth gladly provided by Mother Nature, God and all the powers that be.
Wishing you a spot of peace this day.
Reprinted from The Blue Ribbon News
Birds have a flock.
Geese a gaggle.
Cows a herd.
I thought that hippos also gathered in herds, though I am corrected by Google.
You would find a bloat of hippos, (insert giggle) and very appropriately, a tower of Giraffes.
Humans have groups. Groups of friends. Circles of women. Groups of yayas, besties, friends who play cards, supper clubs.
In the past twenty five years, I have learned to have friends. It took me longer than most. I was well into my late thirties before I realized I needed to do something intentional to develop friends. Always wishing for comfortable friendships, other than one or two friendly neighbors over the years, I just did not have friends.
I had no idea how to reach out and bring friends into my everyday life. It seems intuitive for many people. I am a nice person, though introverted. Seeking connection is not naturally ingrained within the introvert and it can be challenging to seek out people and become friends. Finally, well into my third decade, I took my lonely self in hand, and vowed to make friend finding happen.
It was uncomfortable to get started, and awkward at times. Friendships did not develop in a week. When acquaintances happened, when just the right mix occurred; I learned friendship is delightful. I became part of a tribe. And smaller units of singles or doubles too. At times I gather them together in one place. This can be delightful for the extroverts, daunting for introverts, and sometimes the instinct is not to shake the pudding, leave the protective skin of comfort in place.
I recall a brunch party twenty five years ago, early in my “process,” when I invited a few mixed groups of women over on a Saturday morning. An acquaintance was being introduced around, when she said in dismay “Oh! I thought it was just going to be US”. Just one particular group. I get that. But, there is no “just US.” There are bajillions of women (and a few man humans) to be located and morph our way into one kind of friendship or another. I embrace it these days. A mentor guided me all those years ago to make friendship intentional. He provided me a gift.
Not long ago, with many years in our previous neighborhood, trees grown tall, comfortable neighbors surrounding us, we took the plunge into downsizing our home. Looking at the future, it seemed the time to move into a new phase. We sold our home, built a new home and moved to a new location. I found myself longing for new neighbor friends. I am so aware now, of the need for community, for familiar faces to call on in joys and troubles, and to borrow that cup of sugar, share the homemade soup.
In the old neighborhood, I had a soup friend. My husband is not fond of homemade soups. Let me assure you – it is not due to the quality of my soups. In fact, I am told and I concur, my homemade soups are delicious. (He prefers canned soup, the poor soul, and this is a subject we may cover at some future date.) And so, if we are not having guests and I get a hankering for a pot of soup, there is plenty to share.
My soup friend was one whom I could call and say “bring your container down – I have soup.” She would come down, sometimes in pajamas, we would share some chit chat, and soup would be transferred to from my kitchen to hers. There is comfort in friendships such as this. They are literally comfortable. They don’t require an elaborate invitation or setting. Just face to face, passing soup. Sharing words on the driveway. Texting a neighbor to come over and enjoy the evening on the patio with a cold drink.
Sometimes new friends simply pop up out of thin air; a Lagniappe that appears and we feel the magic happening. I hoped for this, but I was occupied with unpacking, settling our home, and planting a new garden; good excuses not to put myself out there. Pandemic had made it easy to revert into old, solitary habits. Still, I was longing for community and I recalled, I would have to make it happen. I would need to be intentional in reaching out and locating prospective pals. I am again in that process now, and happily having a bit of success.
It seems there are a number of us in my new neighborhood. Women – can we say – of a certain age? Our nests are empty, for the most part. A number of us are new or newish to this neighborhood and we have been longing for a group of friends. Coincidental to my longings, a social media post on a neighborhood page, seeking to begin a women’s group, started the process. I was the first to respond! A group of women who wish to enjoy the company of each other gathered; to play games, eat the cooking, raise a glass, talk, share, and develop community. It is intentional. It has been that simple. And it is working. New friendships are developing. Others are branching off. We are gathering in, creating community.
We now have a neighbor who brings warm cinnamon rolls over on Sunday mornings. We have been enjoying friendly fence talk with young neighbors on one side. They invited us next door for a baby shower recently, and some of us are making plans to visit the Margarita truck in Fate, as soon as possible after the new baby makes his appearance. A delightful friendship has developed with a new pal, who already feels like a sister. And there is a group with which to share laughter and concerns.
Just a word. If you are an introvert, I know this prospect may not be an easy one. I have walked the path and I know. Put yourself out there – someone is looking for you. Having friends is life and spirit changing. Let me know if you need encouragement.
I’ll cut this writing short, as ten of us are trekking out today for lunch. I think I prefer to call them a Delight of friends, as opposed to a Gaggle! I am looking ahead with a smile.
Reprinted from Blue Ribbon News
July 2022 Print Edition
Following a weekend of deaths, in the United States and in the World.
You are the Light of the world. There is grief and horror, ugliness beyond imagination, and men taking lives as their quest. I fear humanity is lost, dear God. We are all at fault.
Lead us to your light; to cherish the lives of children, women and men of all races, all faiths, all beliefs.
You created all of us, show us how to live together.
The murdering cuts deeper and deeper.
We are so scarred, we become numb to the horror.
Still, small miracles and joys shine through. The shouts and laughter of children, outdoors on a spring evening. A mass of praying mantis hatching on the porch. Colorful blooms in the gardens. The hearts that transcend selfishness. We all give to our children, we are as one. A soft kitty that purrs around my ankles, with a small nip to speed me along.
Winds that whipped ferociously Sunday night. Rains that poured. Sun that rises pink in the east, reflecting its light on the drops remaining on the green grass, and the leaves sparkle as gems in the trees. A fresh morning for us.
Another day of grief for so many.
We mourn for those feeling the pain of death, mortified at the terror of the final moments of their loved ones.
My prayer for them is for peace, hope, warmth. My prayer is for us to resolve that we will not allow terrorists and hatred to take away the love and kindness that is in human hearts.
We remember there is value in every human life. No one should feel the anguish of these past days. All ought be allowed the freedom of unworried strolls in their neighborhoods, peaceful shopping in their stores, food on their tables.
Blood only from skinned knees, not from wounds inflicted by hatred.
Walk with us God.
Shine your light through this darkness. Show us the way of love and light.
I will be a light.
Reprinted from The Blue Ribbon News
3:00 afternoon quiet suddenly shatters in cacophony; the salvo of the storm door being yanked open, and we are bombarded by ten and six year olds; delirious with giggles and pokes and summer fun and armfuls of backpacks, Harry Potter blankets and the flap flap of flip flops announcing that the peace is broken. It will be fun and games, and cheesy British accents for the next twenty-four hours.
Cringing in terror, the house braces herself as five thousand, or perhaps only two pair of feet stomp up the stairs to dump backpacks. I shake my fuzzy nap brain, and my face breaks into auto-smile, for who can hold back a grin at the first sound of grandchild voices? The nonsense carries on and I wander from the sunshine and soft whiteness of my bedroom, a wee bit rueful at the shortening of my summer afternoon snooze.
Running feet above signal a change is ensuing .Doors slam, and still faceless voices call out “Gram!! Have you seen my swimming suit?” In minutes the pounding feet make their way back down, scrambling for beach towels that they know will have been washed, dried and are rolled on the closet shelf. Blue with red crabs for one and cabana stripes of red and white for the other. A quick hug for a Gram as the small hooligans advance through the kitchen, heading for cool, blue waters. Operations halt, fresh summer peaches are spotted out on the blue and white platter! Without a care, knowing they are meant to consume the juiciness, fingers grab, and rinse the fuzzy fruit, wasting only seconds before the juice is dripping down her chin. Another peach is juggled and rinsed for her small male minion.
Out the black door they speed, with a squeeeek and a bang to close, calling “Bob’s out” as the cat follows close behind. Voices fade and towels drop on waiting chairs, bare feet race up the stones to the water. By tomorrow night I’ll be a limp rag lying prone on the sofa. I’ll have prepared twenty tacos, washed and trimmed countless strawberries and refilled lemonade cups until I am blue in the face. I’ll have repeated the perpetual refrains “where is your wet swimsuit?” and “come put your popsicle wrappers in the trash” until I can no longer hold a coherent conversation. Several knockdown drag outs will have been refereed, hurt feelings soothed and I’ll doubtless lead at least one Come To Jesus meeting. I’ll spend time locating missing shoes and lost shorts, and finding spare sets of pajamas, because packing oodles of lotions and potions, air buds, diaries, a floppy Puppy and a Tiger with nappy, odiferous fur; take priority over remembering to include pj’s in the backpacks. I’ll have given hugs and stolen kisses to foreheads as growing grandbabies wince; the price of hanging at Grammy’s house. The Labrynth board will make its way out and a six year old with a grin, will triumph at beating his Gram at the brain game. I’ll protest aloud, while internally jumping for joy that he will match or perhaps overcome his sister’s prodigious smarts.
They’ll be tucked in to comfy beds and snicker to themselves, somehow thinking that I am unaware of the books and flashlights hidden under the covers. I wonder if they speculate in the mornings about how the flashlights get switched off in the night and the books piled on the nightstand? These things just take care of themselves at Gram’s.
We’ll resume festivities in the morning.
This is summer daze.
Reprinted from The Blue Ribbon News
Last night it rained on Fay’s garden. The rain came in torrents, with thunder rumbles and startling cacophony of crashes. Lightening flashed in the sky so close and bright, we wondered where it had exploded.
Fay’s garden stood protected this time around, the Black Eyed Susan soon to bud. Lambs Ear soaking in the abundant waters. Extraordinary Viburnum snowball bush huge and glorious, with multitudes of beauteous green and white puffs of blooms, standing tall and generous.
Fay was like that viburnum bush - she collected more ideas than a jar of red, blue and yellow marbles, and like those marbles she was multicolored and bright. Is there a color Fay did not like? I can’t imagine.
Fay shared her ideas out and up - as the branches of her spreading Viburnum. An Outrageous Older Woman, in her own words, she shared her life, her warmth, her love of people and her wonderfully wacky sense of humor generously. She touched innumerable lives in her lifetime, in her nursing career, photography and in sharing her garden.
Just as the storms that thundered through last night, Fay was a force of nature. Though not a destructive force; but a warm, loving, over the top, brimming with life, laughing force that has brightened the world for so many of us.
One of Fay’s bright joys was her garden. A garden overrun with abundance of glorious, vivid perennials, accented in verdant green and sunshine. Potted annuals, brilliant blooming vines tumble over an arch, a plant climbing each side, vying for first place at the top. Stepping stones surround the planting bed, with green borders in between. Fay’s garden is charming, full of life, and a spot to let your eyes rest on the beauty and your mind wander.
Bunnies come to Fay’s garden. A respite from their suburban fate of lawns, shrubs, and hounds pursuing, they pop in to lie in the deep shade beneath the Sunshine Ligustrum. Standing on their haunches, they peep into tubs overflowing with Periwinkle, no doubt enjoying a bit of a nosh here and there, from the bounty. Bright green anoles live in Fay’s garden. Sunbathing atop the cement angel who presides over a birdbath filled with succulents and birdseed, green tail draped over the cherub’s head. Birds drop in to enjoy verdant peace and fill up on seeds from a huge plaster coffee cup.
Fay’s serendipitous sense of humor mingles riotously amidst the beauty of her garden. A ridiculously obnoxious rubber rat pops up in the funniest places. A huge rubber ant wanders between the plants. Sharing endless cups of coffee, two long legged frogs spend their days side by side on a garden bench, pleased with their lot in life - in Fay’s garden.
We know this - because Fay was a photographer and shared the charm, the quaint visitors, and humor in her garden through brilliant photographs. We have been greedy recipients of the vignettes documenting the sweet life in Fay’s garden, accented with Fay’s whimsical, written narration.
In the past couple of years, Fay began experiencing health issues, and to her distress, her garden lay untended. Without her loving hand the garden overgrew, potted plants dried. Winter’s camouflage was not cut back and pulled away to allow new growth to come forth.
To our dismay and great sadness, Fay’s health failed her. I visited with my friend late this winter. She delighted in introducing me to the life sized, talking zombie butler who presides over the round, dining nook table. Fay was not in any way ready to be done with her zesty life quest. Over a mad mix of delicious cold juices, cheese, berries and cookies, she shared her chagrin that the garden was not what it had once been. I thought then, that I would find some springtime hours to work in Fay’s garden, so that she could enjoy it again.
In these things of life and death we are not given much choice as to timing, and Fay’s choice was pulled from her. Fay was hospitalized and recently went home on hospice care.
This past week, from personal friends, and soon-to-be friends that I’d not yet met from an online garden group, I gathered a small army of eight women. Armed with spades, rakes, clippers and gloves, we tackled the jungle that had overtaken Fay’s garden. We cleared, clipped, trimmed and filled a multitude of bags with plant refuse. Flats of bright annuals were planted for instant color, succulents replaced to revive the birdbath’s alter ego, and a few new perennials added to carry on. One of Fay’s anoles made a surprise landing atop my head and was carefully lifted off and set down to scurry back to green life.
Though the garden will not again know Fay’s whimsical touch, we restored it as best we could, hoping she would enjoy seeing her magical place again before leaving this world.
Fay spent her last days in the hospital bed that had been placed next to the window in her living room. The window looks out on her beloved garden. Unresponsive in the past week, she quietly slept, a devoted pup curled at her feet.
Our hope was that she be allowed at least one more clear moment; that one of her sparks would light up and her eyes could rest on the color and life in her garden, one more time. My fervent hope now is that she knew joy in the knowledge that we were coming to work her garden and revive it to bloom again this spring. Fay moved on this morning, April 5, 2022.
To Fay’s family - thank you for sharing this magnificent force of nature; your wife, mother and grandmother with the rest of us. We are forever enriched, brightened and chuckling. Fay’s bright light carries on, illuminating our paths with joy.
Sally Kilgore 04.05.22
Reprinted from Blue Ribbon News
Lately, I find myself skipping over the daily memories that pop up on my social media page.
Somehow, I find myself with a small tear plopping down, or a sense of wistfulness that I am not willing to feel. So many of those memories are of the days when the grandbabies were tiny and growing. The days when those babies belonged to their parents and to us. We made their worlds a happy place. The time we spent with them brought their smiles.
The babies are fast growing into kids and soon, a teenager will erupt from one huge hearted, long haired, blonde girl. They are pretty terrific children, bright, eager, brains always working. Activities such as football, Beta Club, theatre, youth group and bazillions of birthday parties fill their weeks and weekends. It is a delight to see them thrive and bloom into good people.
The memories of them shrieking and running into my arms when picking them up from day school, or bursting through the front door with laughter and eagerness are behind us. There are still big smiles from the boy child, a bit shyer these days and the near teenager must be coaxed, just a bit, for hugs.
Once in the door, they feel their comfort zone again and head into “their room”; a boy with a saucy grin who still loves hugs, pulling out toys, looking for the blue Ipad. A pretty pre-teen plopping into a recliner with a good book, soon to request bread and jam or cheese, often with sliced apple on the side. They still prefer Gram slice their cheese, just as I always have.
The babies still ask me to turn on the music when we pile into Flexie. Sometimes the singing along takes just a bit longer these days. Quickly they warm up to familiar tunes and the voices rise, making me smile. Somedays a pre-teen will request silence from her brother, as the bit of older sister aggravation creeps into the closeness of their sister-brother bond.
Today they have full lives and are pulling just a bit away from the enchantment with Granddad and Grammy’s house. Still, it always remains a familiar, warm spot for them to hang, have a snack, read a book. They have their own thoughts, their own paths to follow, their own journeys to take. I cherish the conversations with them now, when they give me a peek into their worlds.
I hope that once they are grown, the journeys bring them back down the path to Gram’s house frequently. I will always treasure every moment of their presence, and every word.
I’ll stop avoiding those memories on Facebook that I once posted so frequently, and be filled, knowing we had so much time together in their very young years.
Reprinted from Blue Ribbon News
Early March and I know better than to begin planting flowers. There will be another freeze yet. Still, sunshine and 77 degrees and my gardener’s brain spins and whirls with visions of which new beauties will go into the garden this year. Yesterday, I could not resist a stroll through my favorite garden center, nor could I resist picking up just a few fresh things for the yard and patio. The fog of winter lifts as soon as a gardener can turn the soil, mix in compost and pat in the plants, while the cat bakes in the mulch, squashing the poor olive bush with his lounging sprawl.
Bright yellow Coreopsis will thrive in the Southern exposure of the front yard, and another light freeze should not harm them, more than that and I will use the freeze cloth to protect their cheery faces. Early Spring Phlox with its fluffy looking, pokie- petaled blooms and spreading habit will continue to bloom now until the Texas weather turns hot, (think mid April) then retreat, to pop it’s pretty pinkness back up next February.
A few small Asparagus Fern to edge the horse trough planter that hangs outside of the writing room window, they will hold the fort until I can squeeze in some Coleus for Summer through Fall. A few Weeping Fig, which I can rarely bring through the heat of summer, yet can rarely resist, and some demure little round purple blooms with spreading foliage (I cannot recall the name, they too will only bloom for the Spring. So – do I really need to recall the name?) These in hanging baskets outside the kitchen window.
Finally, potted up on the patio are several bright fuchsia Calibrachoa, clustered in one large terra cotta pot. A darling plant that blooms now until July, when it will give a last gasp and say Adios. They are so very lovely, that I don’t mind the short lived nature. Long ago and far away in another garden, I came across this plant in the loveliest double bloom form. It was one of the most admired pots of blooms, ever in my garden. It actually returned year after year, until one year it didn’t. I’ve never found another variety quite the same, the quest continues. Five small Dwarf Yaupons round out this day, easy enough to pop into the soil at the back of the large backyard garden. Evergreen, for when other beauties fade during the Winter months.
Now with my heart singing cheerily and my body singing dirges of sore muscles, I can allow myself some peace. Though, I know tomorrow I have all those bio-degradable seedling containers to pot up with seeds. And those two new trees to find.
3 March 2022
REPRINTED FROM KUKKA
BLUE RIBBON NEWS
February in Texas, oh fickle month. A temperamental twenty-eight day period, faithless and unpredictable, (though, March can be nearly as capricious.) Upon reaching February, Texans and those settlers who arrived over fifty years ago, long enough to be considered a Texan despite the scoffs of those born on hallowed ground, have had enough of winter’s delightful cool air and the hint of frostiness that brings an occasional teasing nip our way. Those who have not enough, move to Colorado. By February, we may, or may not, have had opportunity to wear our sweaters. This though, is where some natives show conspicuously, striding sidewalks for exercise on sunny, fifty nine degree days, in parkas, knit caps and gloves. I refrain from voicing my superiority in this regard, in my strong desire to consider myself Texan as noted above.
Days may burst forth warm and balmy in February, seventy to seventy five degrees not uncommon. Perennials in the garden begin to pop up green buds ‘neath winter dried foliage. We are so anxious to escape the four walls, where indoor winter projects idle in the back of our minds as we dawdle in lethargy, longing to dig, plant, cultivate. Hours later, the winds turn and soon blast our tiny buds with bitter cold, freezing rain and ice pellets, sheathing all surfaces in slippery, solid ice. Schools close. Store shelves empty. The newspaper does not come! We tap into our pioneer spirit, pull out blankies and books, and we guzzle cups of coffee and hot chocolate in front of warm fireplaces, napping frequently despite wicked caffeine buzzes. Thus Texans survive the beating of brutal elements. Hibernation ensues, sometimes as long as two days (in a typical year.)
Then – as if the angel of mercy has waved wings over, temps rise – ten and twenty degrees or more per day, and we soar back into the sunny seventies, within four days’ passage. Anticipating Spring (we know better – we do) we burst from the house, roll up freeze cloth, water potted plants and young shrubs. Enthused and eager to be in the happy place, the garden, we easily lose sight - of sheets of thick, solid ice that have taken firm hold on shady spots, unwilling to loosen their grip despite the warmth; in this short tale, particularly on an uncovered patio area. Thus, on a seductively warm, February day, a woman of a certain age may find herself, flat on her back on a sizeable patch of ice, having cracked open her elbow, conked her head and performed the splits – when she has never previously accomplished this feat in her life. She lays, looking at the clear blue sky above, after some moments, thanking the good Lord, the angels, and all the fairies surrounding, that kept bones from snapping or shattering. This is when she is thankful for bruises, aches and pains, and over the counter pain relief.
And after she has pulled herself upright, called the cat in from his wandering and limps toward the door – her eyes brighten to see the Carolina Jessamine spiraling up an iron obelisk, towards the warming sun – preparing to ease open - saturated, butter yellow blooms, in February.
REPRINTED FROM KUKKA
BLUE RIBBON NEWS