Monday, October 16, 2017

Garden Report, Week 20: October 16

After another unseasonably warm weekend, Fall is in the air this morning.  The garden is long past prime, weary of the growing from the previous months.  

My raggedy plants have little left to harvest, though there are still tomato blooms, which is lovely though not especially promising, given the late date of the season.

The green tomatoes that remain are in a race against time; there is a frost warning for Tuesday night.  I expect that this is the final garden report for the 2017 season.  

I’ll pick everything left before the chill descends and offer thanks for the garden season that was even as I begin my daydreams and planning for the next garden season.  That’s the beauty of a garden; it’s a place for patient hopes and dreams.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Here and Now

When I first became a single mama, in the enveloping sadness that followed I found that the prospect of future happiness suddenly felt elusive.  I missed the ability to look into a future of assumed happiness.  Over time, I came to appreciate my immediate blessings.  My world felt more fragile but I found a way forward to moments of happiness.  As my heart healed, I once again came to see a future with happiness at the core.  That was a blessing for many reasons but especially because it gave me the chance to once again dream of the future.

It’s tricky to always look forward to happiness because it puts me at risk for failing to appreciate the here and now.  I’m especially aware of this conundrum now, as JT applies for college and I prepare to send him from the nest.  Last week, my parents visited.  These days, time in their company always reminds me of the rapid passage of time.  

In the midst of a Senior year which seems to be all about JT’s future, I’m more determined than ever to enjoy the here and now; to appreciate the moments at hand.  The future gets it fair share of our thoughts and imagination but in the here and now there is the beauty of happiness to be found.  I plan to claim it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: October 10

The last week has mostly been filled with warm, humid air.  Good for the tomatoes, but bad for folks like me who wish to sleep with the windows open to an evening chill.  My parents are in town to visit with us and watch the boy in a few Cross Country races.  Pumpkins and mums are everywhere, but otherwise it hardly seems like Fall.  Enter the dogwood, always at the ready to provide a charming display.  Up close, these leaves are well on their way to a Fall celebration.

In the mornings, the backyard squirrels scamper up and down the limbs.  In the afternoon, we are sometimes lucky enough to see the cardinals that hang out here.  It’s a treat to look out the back window and see the tree as it embraces the season.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Garden Report, Week 19: October 9

I wouldn’t say that the garden is flourishing at this point, though the warmth of the past week ensures that I still have a few tomatoes to pick.

Historically, the first frost should be close at hand.  But it doesn’t quite feel like that today, with a humid and rainy day on tap.  As long as the cool weather holds off, I’ll have fresh-grown tomatoes to enjoy.  I’ll take it!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

October Front Porch

October is the month that first inspired my monthly porch decorations and it remains one of my favorite months to enjoy the porch.  For starters, the prospect of cool weather is usually very welcome come October.  Mums, jack-o-lanterns, gourds, and ghosts are some of the best treats of the month.

My flag welcomes visitors.

So far, it’s been a warm October and so there are summer plants still comfortable outside.  They’re tucked into a corner soaking up the warmth and sunlight.

By the end of the month, I’ll have trick-or-treaters to go with some cooler evenings.  That’s happy!

Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Family Pastime

My parents are in town to enjoy the Fall and watch JT in a few cross country races.  Last night, we watched baseball playoff games.  We don’t have a dog in the hunt, but baseball is baseball and so we watched.  JT and Grandpa were watching together and there was pretty constant commentary when a Cleveland player connected and in unison they called, “that’s gone.”  Gone it was and JT smiled and said to his Grandpa, “we both knew that.”  Grandpa is the source of his love of the game and watching baseball together…..well, that’s happy!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: October 4

Fall is really starting to hold on around here and the cool evenings have led to some excellent sleeping weather.  While I rest, the dogwood is clearly getting after it.

That’s happy!

Tuesday, October 03, 2017


Cross Country races occur at courses all over the state, some nearby and some further away.  I enjoy the road trips that get me to the courses and I’ve found plenty of pretty parks in the process.  Last week, JT’s team completed against a local school at Natirar Park, a lovely, hilly park that was a former estate.  JT has run here before and that’s an important thing in cross country because it’s hard to lead a race if you don’t know the path to run.  

Natirar has wide swathes of green grass, woods, and hills.  The race starts in the middle of a big field, and then sweeps through the woods and up the hill seen here.  From there, the course rolls up hills in and out of the woods.

JT started strong and as I glimpsed him running in and out of the woods, he moved into first place.  That’s where he finished the race.

He didn’t run a personal best time, but it’s his first race with a first place finish and he was best pleased by that development.

Cross Country fans are the best.  They cheer for everyone; it’s not a sport with contact or personal fouls and the fans reward effort as much as they cheer victory.  We stay until every runner crosses the finish line.  I’ve spent plenty of time cheering my son as he finished a race in the back half of the crowd and always I've been proud of his effort.  But I have to say the first was pretty damn sweet as well.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Garden Report, Week 18: October 2

The garden is looking raggedy and dry; the tomatoes plants are clearly coming to the end of their season.

But as long as a warm sun shines, I water the garden.  So there are tomatoes to pick and enjoy each week.

That’s happy!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Old Man Tree: October

After a wet Summer, September was a dry month.  The leaves had started to turn as the month began. Temperatures warmed for the latter half of the month and it was hard to believe that Fall had arrived.  But the lawn is covered by a carpet of leaves when I set out to mow each week.

When I run the mower, I mark my rows by the mulching of these leaves.  

When I look overhead, I see that Old Man Tree is nowhere near shedding his leaves.  His embrace of the next season is more stately than mine.  There is a lot more raking and mulching to come.

Cool, crisp mornings have once again taken hold; evenings arrive sooner.  There are pumpkins and mums on the front porch.  In the coming weeks, the pace of leaves changing colors and dropping into the yard will pick up.  I keep watch for a glimpse of the harvest moon as I step out back under the limbs of this tree that has passed many more years than I have.  I offer a thanks to Mother Nature for all those years and a wish that Old Man Tree weather many more of them.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

September Book Report: The Angry Tide

I picked up The Angry Tide to read as the school year began, confident that it would be a welcome respite as I settled in to busy school days.  I was right about that.

The novel is the seventh title in Winston’s Graham’s Poldark series.  I’ve written before about the series and how much I love these books, you can read that here and here.  The novels, set in Cornwall in the same time period as the American Revolution and into the early 1800s, are terrific stories on their own, with interesting characters woven throughout.  I’ve enjoyed every book in the series and together, the themes of the novels linger well past the reading of the books.  

The stories are parables of privilege and work; of responsibility and happiness.  They are stories of class and feminism.  Graham has an impressive talent for showing the reader all of the characters’ points of view in a well-drawn way, sometimes sympathetic to them, sometimes not.  He’s never unkind but neither does he gloss the truth of each character’s existence and behavior.  Each novel has been a great read, with experiences and turns of phrase I think about well after I’ve turned the last page.

Tomorrow, the Poldark series begins again on Masterpiece Theatre and it’s nearly as well-done as the novels, with beautiful images to boot.  Like the books, it's well-worth your time.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pretty Package

It’s been a busy week and when I get time to write, I have some stories to tell.  But first, there’s a 4 class day to navigate, a colleague's baby shower to celebrate, a taco supper to cook, and who knows how many middle schoolers will make unwise choices today……..

How about a pretty package to start our day?

That’s happy!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: Sept. 27

As I recall, just a few weeks ago I was bemoaning the passage of Summer.  Mother Nature must have heard me because the temperature has been creeping upward since then and it’s been warmer than I like.  There are a couple of lessons to be drawn from this.  One is that I should quit complaining about things I can’t control.  Another may very well be that I am never happy with the weather I have.  Both are likely true but in any case, the dogwood tree knows its business.

And it’s business is ginning up for Fall.  A cold front is on it’s way for the end of this week and we’ll close out September on a colder note.  The dogwood is ready and so am I.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Garden Report, Week 17: September 25

Thanks to unusually warm September weather, my garden and backyard have finally begun to look a little ragged around the edges.

To take advantage of the warm days, I ran the sprinkler a few times last week. The reward was a generous handful of tomatoes and still more set on the vines in a race against frost.

There is more warmth forecast for this week, so I’ve a feeling a few more tomatoes will come my way.

That’s happy!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Late Season Flowers

After a cool start to the month, the second half of September has been unseasonably warm.  That’s provided a chance for late season blooms to take center stage.  On Wednesday afternoon as I was running errands, I came across a small town garden with hydrangeas blooming in the shade.

I stopped the car and got out to admire them.

These last summer blooms are always especially lovely to admire.

Soon enough, I’ll have pumpkins, mums, and piles of fall leaves to admire (and rake!).  In the meantime, I plan to soak up the last of the Summer’s loveliness.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Price of Vigilance

Being attentive to politics, both domestic and international, is part of my DNA.  Since the Newsweek subscription that I started at the age of 14, I’ve paid close attention to the news.  These days, I regularly read the New York Times, Mother Jones, the Nation, and Vox.  I follow some excellent print and digital reporters on Twitter.  NPR is my station of choice and I listen to the morning and evening broadcasts every day.  I think of myself as well-informed; I’ve always been proud of that.

In the Trump era, there is a price to that vigilance.  The daily news out of our president is rarely good, and often frustrating and anger-inducing.  My lifelong pattern has been to get up in the morning and switch on NPR at the same time I start brewing my coffee.  Lately, I’ve found myself standing in front of the radio and taking a deep breath to brace myself before I turn it on to experience the day’s news.

I am deeply frustrated and disheartened.  This president dependably demonstrates ignorance, racism, and sexism; he’s shallow and self-absorbed.  His administration is gravely incompetent, ruled by half-formed rationales and ignorant policy proposals.  Trump’s own propensity for mean-spirited name-calling is shameful.  He is unable to rise above anything and we all suffer as a consequence.

For this reason, it’s more important than ever that I pay attention and we all remain attentive and involved.  It’s hard to do when paying attention to the news invariably means signing up for a punch in the gut.  But absorbing that punch to remain vigilant is the cost of democracy right now.  I fear for my nation as I have never feared before and that is a very uncomfortable feeling.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dogwood Wednesday: September 20

Fall starts today and the dogwood is ready to go.  In some sort of wrinkle in the seasonal continuum, the last two weeks have been warmish, not steaming like it’s full-blast Summer, but warm enough to ensure that I don’t look like a complete idiot wearing flip flops everywhere that I go.

The dogwood is having none of it, having transitioned to Fall a few weeks ago.  So it’s full speed ahead on seasonal change in my backyard.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Front Porch in September

There is a new flag for the front porch in September.  T gave it to me for Christmas and I set it out just as school began so that it could welcome me home each day.

The table is also ready for the month, with my wooden village to greet me.

By September, my Summer plants are starting to feel weary and look a bit ragged; their peak has passed.  But the weather is warm and even half-hearted flowers are blooms to enjoy.

The potted plants have nearly completed their Summer growth and are just a few weeks from heading indoors for the cold weather that lies ahead.  Now that classes have begun, I’m up at 5:30 am and the porch is often too dark (and sometimes too chilly) to sit outside.  But I grab time whenever I can because being out here feeds my soul, reminds me to live in the moment, and makes me happy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Garden Report, Week 16: September 18

Despite the continued wet weather, my garden has begun to look somewhat ragged at the edges.  The growing things are weary and looking forward to a resting season.

The continued warmth and sunlight has ensured that I am still harvesting tomatoes.  Many more remain set on; there are even new blooms this week.  But it will be a race against cool weather to have those tomatoes.

The late-planted zinnias have generated a bloom, but the others are being chewed up by the local wildlife, so I may not have many more flowers before the first frost arrives.

I’ve written before that this is a hard Summer to let go.  But Fall will “officially” begin this week, even though I’m holding on.  Mother Nature has a timeline and plan and she marches toward it, whether I am ready or not.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Letting Go: Taco Supper

The backstory: This year, as JT prepares to head off to college, I’m writing about the traditions that spell love in our home.  I’m thinking of them more mindfully than usual as I prepare to send my bird from his nest.  For me, these traditions  were always about a securing a happy and well-loved childhood in preparation for a happy adulthood.  They are about creating memories that will endure and for me they are also about letting go.

One of the traditions in our home is homemade tacos, a supper I learned to make in California.  I make Diana Kennedy’s chicken recipe, so we have chicken tacos.  When there’s time, I make homemade refried beans.  There is always homemade salsa.  We have them so often that I have dozens of pictures of taco suppers served over the years.

We have chicken tacos when someone special comes to to dinner.  We have them to celebrate birthdays and achievements.  We have them because its Tuesday and tacos are delicious.  It’s special because its ours; it’s JT’s most requested meal.  Tonight we had tacos to celebrate the end of the second week of school.  T and JT’s girlfriend A joined us; both have had plenty of tacos at our house.  They are welcome to plenty more, because tacos at Sassafras House are a thing; our happy thing.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Joy of it All

I change the picture on the desktop of my computer very regularly.  There’s only one requirement of the picture I place there: it needs to make me happy.  For this reason, the picture is most often one of two things: something from the outdoors, often a place I’ve visited with T, or my son.  Not coincidentally, both of these things are growing and changing and it is the notion of capturing one moment in a happy time that I find so pleasing..  

In September, I came across the picture of an 8 year old JT, playing in the backyard with a sprinkler and a stick.  This was frequent game he played over the years and it always featured laughter and joy because he was outside and running, two of his most favorite things.  I set the picture as my desktop because it made me happy.

Yesterday, one of JT’s Cross Country teammates made this picture of him in his second race of the season.   He wasn’t laughing and sticks aren't allowed in Cross Country, but I know that he was having fun.

Same kid, 9 short years later.  And the best thing of all is that I see the same kind of joy.  That’s happy!